06/01/2020

SDLP Calls For Mental Health Minister

The SDLP has called for any future Stormont Executive to prioritise mental health and wellbeing with a dedicated Junior Minister.

As talks to restore devolved government continue, the party's deputy leader Nichola Mallon said all parties are agreed on the need to unite to tackle the mental health crisis.

It comes after young people staged a rally in Belfast over the weekend calling for improved mental health services and education in Northern Ireland, the region with the highest suicide rates throughout the UK and Ireland.

The north Belfast MLA said urgent action is required at the highest level to give people in despair the hope they need. She commented: "There is a mental health and emotional wellbeing crisis happening in our community. No part of Northern Ireland is immune. Whether it manifests itself through despair, addiction, loneliness, self-harm or suicide, the signs are there that we have a deep rooted problem that needs to be addressed urgently.
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"We can't continue producing strategy after strategy. The scale of the problem we're facing, which has been reflected in the harrowing pain that too many families have experienced over recent days, demands action now. All parties agree on the need to do something, we should come together to deal with this.

"Any new Executive must demonstrate that this is the highest level priority."

Ms Mallon called for a Junior Minister to be appointed to a role dedicated to improving the mental health and wellbeing of all local citizens, especially young people who are facing unprecedented pressures in today's world.

She continued: "Giving this specific responsibility to a Junior Minister tasked with working with all Government Departments, statutory agencies, the community and voluntary sector and wider community will help ensure this remains a top priority and that actions continue to be driven forward. People and families are crying out for help. We need to demonstrate that we are serious about addressing this challenge."



(JG/CM)

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