There is an overwhelming gap between mental health provision and the needs of people in Northern Ireland, according to a report.
The research, by the Mental Health Rights Campaign, found that general practice is falling short of the standards of care to which it aspires.
The group comprises people affected by mental health issues, their carers, and families bereaved through suicide.
There are about 12 groups which campaign for improvements in services.
Dr John Kyle, a GP in east Belfast, says it is clear that a system which “makes people feel worthless and unimportant” is unacceptable.
One woman’s story
A County Tyrone woman who was hospitalised in England for almost three years because of mental illness says there needs to be a big cultural shift in Northern Ireland if issues like suicide and self harm are to be tackled.
Nicole Devlin says she’s speaking out about her own experiences in a bid to help other people and reduce stigma – particularly around personality disorders.
The report, “Beyond a Spin of the Wheel”, has a series of recommendations which include mandatory mental health training for GPs and other relevant staff.
While they say there are a long list of areas where change is needed, the following are areas which require urgent transformation:
Lack of mental health expertise among GPs
Barriers to accessing appointments for mental health care
The over prescription of medication to deal with mental health issues.
A number of recommendations are made in an attempt to break down the barriers to providing a good mental health service.
These include mandatory mental health training for Gps and other relevant staff, a designated phone line for mental health appointments, a ‘red flag’ system on patients’ files to alert the receptionist that a caller has mental health issues and provision of double or longer appointments for people with mental health issues.