Mental Health Foundation supports the call for a Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland “prevention should be their top priority”

24 February 2016

Today, Northern Ireland hosts its first mental health summit organised by Action for Mental Health.  It will reinforce calls for a Mental Health Champion to “defend the rights and interests of people living with mental illness”.

Dr Iris Elliott, Head of Policy and Research at the Mental Health Foundation said:

“Whilst mental health has secured cross party support in Stormont, progress to address the mental health challenges facing our society has been glacial. There is genuine and heart felt political good will, often informed by personal, family and constituent experience of mental distress. However, we need to face a hard reality that this has not been translated into real change in people’s lives across Northern Ireland during this Assembly term.

“The Mental Health Foundation supports the calls for a Mental Health Champion in the hope that this role will be an asset to all of us mental health advocates in Northern Ireland.  There are a number of key areas where progress needs to be made but prevention should be their top priority. In addition to the work of a Mental Health Champion political investment is also required.  We hope that the forthcoming Assembly elections will provide an opportunity for parties and independents to set out their stalls and make specific commitments on mental health. Commitments on which they can ultimately be held accountable to deliver.”

The Mental Health Foundations’ top five priorities for a new Mental Health Champion and those standing for election to the Northern Ireland Assembly are:

  • Invest in prevention and early intervention at all stages of the life course beginning with maternal mental health and continuing into later life; with a strong focus on people with long-term physical health conditions. 
  • Address the mental health legacy of the conflict by developing trauma informed approaches within communities and services that are founded on our resilience and assets as a society.
  • Support individuals and communities who experience mental health inequalities and who live in poverty.
  • Promote mental healthy employment by developing psychologically informed workplaces in the public, private, voluntary and community sectors.
  • Support everyone’s mental health literacy so that we can reduce stigma and discrimination, support each other, and know how to look after our own mental health…and when we need services to recover from mental distress. 

Dr Iris Elliott has set out more detail on these priorities in a blog.

The Mental Health Foundation has produced a Fundamental Facts for Mental Health, which we update annually to celebrate World Mental Health Day in October.