Tackling the root causes of poor mental health
The Mental Health Foundation is a UK wide charity with a dedicated presence in Northern Ireland.
Too many people in Northern Ireland experience mental distress that could be prevented. All political parties in Northern Ireland agree that mental health is important, yet there is no sustained programme to prevent mental health problems.
Who will commit to taking action that empowers every person and community in Northern Ireland to thrive with good mental health?
Our mental health is a powerful asset. It's a key that allows us to unlock a wide range of health and social advantages. Yet mental health problems are currently costing Northern Ireland's economy £3.4 billion each year.
As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical that the Northern Ireland Executive invests in strategies to prevent mental health problems in all stages of life.
Five asks to support better mental health for all
Now is the time for our political parties to get behind the prevention agenda. The following five asks are ambitious, evidence-led recommendations that can reduce the prevalence of distress, improve overall wellbeing and save lives.
- Deliver a prevention and early intervention mental health action plan within twelve months
- Reduce the mental health effects of social and economic inequalities, building a mental health lens into strategies to reduce poverty and social exclusion
- Create a community mental health and wellbeing fund to support good mental health
- Upskill teachers and school staff to provide appropriate mental health and wellbeing support
- Every at-risk child or adolescent should have access to a mentoring programme
Northern Ireland has the highest rates of poor mental health of any of the four UK jurisdictions
Mental health problems are the single largest cause of ill health and disability in Northern Ireland. One in five adults in Northern Ireland has experienced a mental health problem, a rate 25% higher than in England.
Prior to the pandemic, one in eight children had emotional difficulty indicating psychological distress. Northern Ireland also has the highest levels of maternal mental health problems in the UK.
While people in distress should get quick access to the right support and treatment, waiting for problems to arise before taking action won’t reduce the number of people experiencing mental health problems. We must focus our efforts on prevention that tackles the root causes of poor mental health, or we will continue to see people suffer while stuck on long waiting lists for treatment.
Mental health problems of all kinds can be prevented. Our mental health is affected by a range of social and environmental factors that interact with our own biological susceptibility and family circumstances. Effective interventions exist to reduce the prevalence of mental health problems. Tackling the causes of poor mental health must be front and centre in our efforts to reduce instances of emotional and psychological distress.
Following the publication of the Mental Health Strategy 2021 to 2031, now is the time for political parties to demonstrate the value they place on mental health through clear commitments to delivering good mental health for all.