Health Minister Simon Hamilton today said Northern Ireland has the potential to become a world leader in dealing with mental health issues.
He was speaking today in the Assembly responding to a motion on mental health services in Northern Ireland.
Minister Hamilton said: "One in four adults in Northern Ireland will suffer from a mental health problem at some stage in their life, indeed Northern Ireland has higher levels of mental ill health than any other region in the UK. However in the past decade, significant reform and modernisation of mental health services have taken place, but more needs to be done.
"The Bamford review in 2008 set in motion some of the most significant changes ever seen in mental health services. Those changes have transformed how we care for people with a mental illness, and have significantly improved the achievable outcomes. The focus in the last number of years in terms of service development has been on early intervention, home treatment services and the development of psychological therapy services."
Citing examples of service developments the Minister said: "The Regional Mental Health Care Pathway, which commits the HSC to deliver care which is more personalised and improves the experience of people with mental health problems, by adopting a more evidence-based and recovery-oriented approach.
"Another good example was the publication of a Strategy for the Development of Psychological Therapy Services, which has largely been implemented. A range of services are provided, including Psychology, Psychotherapy, CBT and Trauma Therapy. The HSC Board estimates that between 75,000 and 80,000 sessions are provided annually."
In September the Minister announced that he had tasked officials to create an innovative service which will meet the needs of those suffering from mental trauma. Explaining further the Minister said: "The service would allow for a range of interventions, meeting the spectrum of need across our community. It will involve leading edge, evidence-based treatments in line with NICE guidelines, and would be based on the authoritative and internationally-recognised Stepped Care model, which focuses on the recovery of the individual from psychological trauma. This model recognises that for people to recover, they may often need a combination of evidence-based social, family, psychological and psychiatric interventions: in short, a collaborative partnership across community, voluntary and statutory services.
"Just as the Royal Victoria Hospital is world-class in dealing with physical trauma, I hope we can agree that a mental trauma service would be a fitting legacy to those who suffer as a result of the Troubles."
Highlighting the importance of reducing stigma of mental health issues, the Minister said: "It is vital that we speak openly about mental health and encourage people who are experiencing emotional difficulties to seek help. The HSC is working across a number of levels to reduce the stigma associated with mental ill health. The PHA and the Northern Ireland Association of Mental Health are working in partnership to deliver a future wide-ranging three year anti-stigma programme entitled Change Your Mind. In addition to this, the cross-departmental Ministerial Coordination Group on Suicide Prevention has expanded its remit to cover a broader range of activities to promote positive mental health."
The Minister also referred to the Mental Capacity Bill which is currently at Committee stage, as another progressive development. If passed, this will be an international first, establishing a fused approach for mental health and mental capacity law.
Concluding the Minister said: "While our mental health services have come a long way since Bamford, we have much more to do. I am committed to further reform and innovation. This will require funding. Some of that can be found by reprioritising existing resources. New money will also be needed. That will be difficult to find, but we all have a responsibility to ensure that we have sufficient means to meet the mental health challenges that we face as a community."
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