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Campaigner calls for review of mental health treatment

CONCERN: Philip McTaggart CONCERN: Philip McTaggart
By Michael Jackson

CAMPAIGNER Phillip McTaggart has called for a review into how people with mental health issues are treated.

The Mindskills founder spoke out this week following several reports that people in crisis are being refused treatment at local hospitals.

In recent weeks, the North Belfast News has reported a number cases where people at risk of suicide and self-harm have been unable to access help. Mr McTaggart said that there is a lack of official recognition about our current mental health crisis.

“I think people in positions of power need to stop telling lies and start telling how it really is,” he said. “The system is broken and I believe the issues around mental health have got out of control. This is not a slight on any of the doctors or the nurses, because I believe they are doing the best they can in a stressful situation. The simple fact is that the resources aren’t there to deal with it.

“The Trust and the PHA are continually training people up to deal with mental health, which I am in favour of because the more people we educate about the signs the better. We need to educate people about what the signs are, how to help people, and we need to encourage people to see their GP – which is the first point of contact – and also to visit A&E if they are in crisis or in danger of ending their own life.

“It’s also very important that the proper information is provided to families. I am fed-up saying this, but if you have a family who have a loved one who has attempted to end their own life or who is suffering from a mental health problem, then without the proper information another member of that family could be suffering from the same issues within six months because of the stress and the anxiety.

“All we have done over the last lot of years is create a bigger mental health problem because we haven’t dealt properly with the situation at the first point of call.”

Mr McTaggart has also questioned the effectiveness of Stormont’s Protect Life 2 Strategy, which was released in September.

“For long enough people were told the strategy couldn’t be signed off because there was no minister in place, but now we know that wasn’t the case at all,” he said.

“I gave a cautious welcome to the strategy. There aren’t major changes in it, but one of things that I do welcome is that it mentions looking after the wellbeing of the family members as well. But, here again, two months on we have families being sent home from hospital without the proper information or treatment of respect.

“Is the strategy all just words or is it a living document that people are going to take seriously?”

Responding to the recent treatment controversy, a Belfast Trust spokesperson said: “In all cases when a mental health assessment is carried out a treatment and safety plan is put in place which may include referral to an appropriate service. Belfast Trust sympathises with members of the public who come to hospital for mental health assessment as they can feel extremely anxious.

“We strive to ensure every patient is treated with compassion and sensitivity throughout a complex assessment process, which takes time to allow staff to fully understand each patient’s needs in detail so an appropriate treatment plan can commence.”

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