The alarming extent of mental health problems affecting people in Northern Ireland has been revealed at the opening of a new research initiative at the Magee campus in Derry.
According to the new Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Aberfoyle House, depression remains the most common reason for people here to visit their GPs but in many cases people can wait for as long as 20 years before seeking help.
Centre director Professor Brendan Bunting believes the research could help sufferers.
“The findings reveal the extent of the suffering caused by mental health problems in our population in Northern Ireland and highlight the importance of finding ways in which we can enhance the mental resources within our society,” he said.
“The results also indicated that while access to services was high, nevertheless only 40 percent of those with a disorder sought treatment in any given year.
“People with depression were among the most likely to seek treatment early, waiting on average a year, although over 25% of individuals in this category waited 10 years or more before seeking treatment.
“However, those with anxiety disorders waited on average over 20 years before asking for help.
“Individuals with substance disorders waited on average 15 years.”
The centre, which is named after the late Professor David Bamford, a leading academic in the field of depression, was officially launched on Wednesday by Professor Norman Black, the pro-vice chancellor of the University of Ulster.
“This opens a new chapter in Ulster’s internationally-recognised research into mental health,” he said.
“In this centre we now have in place an opportunity to develop further strengths in a number of areas, including computational science, clinical methodology, nursing, social work and psychology.
“This builds on the excellent research that has been produced over a number of years and is an indication of the research strengths on the Magee campus, in association with colleagues on other campuses, and through numerous national and international collaborations.”
The guests at the opening included senior academics, health practitioners and managers, policy-makers, students and support groups.