SDLP MLA and Chairperson of the All-Party Group on Mental Health, Mark H Durkan has written to the Health Minister in relation to the #123GP campaign calling for improved access to in-house GP counselling services.
He said access to support at the first point of contact, will be key in tackling the rise in mental health need.
The Foyle MLA commented:
“As health waiting lists in the North, especially those for mental health support continues to spiral, the North runs the risk of stepping from one health crisis to another.
“The ‘tsunami of mental health issues’ predicted by GP leaders as a result of the pandemic is already being felt in all communities. As every facet of our society prepares to rebuild itself from the damage caused by the COVID pandemic, the Executive must turn their sights to equipping the health service for the influx of mental health problems ahead.
“Mental health waiting lists were in dire straits, buckling under the weight of demand pre-pandemic. Without significant investment or an improved model of care, the system runs the risk of collapse.
“Improved access to in-house counselling at GP practices is a simple but effective solution which would allow people struggling with their mental health to access support at their first port of call. It takes a great deal of bravery to reach out and ask for help; and while it may be ‘good to talk’ without access to counselling that sentiment falls flat.
“GP surgeries will play a vital role as support connectors as we grapple with the mental health crisis in the months ahead. I have therefore written to Health Minister, Minister Swann to ensure that the 10 year Mental Health Strategy includes commitments to proving in-house counselling, to ensure that all those who need it are guaranteed access counselling in a timely fashion.
“No-one should be left suffering on ever-increasing waiting lists; time is of the essence with mental health matters.”