55,778 mental health 999 call-outs in four years

Over 55,000 emergency ambulance call-outs in the north over the past four years were mental health-related, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has indicated.

The number of mental health related 999 calls decreased slightly from 15,183 in 2018/19, to 13,969 in 2019/20, and 13,076 in 2020/21, before rising again to 13,550 in 2021/22.

There were 55,778 call-outs in total.

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Tens of thousands of 999 calls were mental health-related.

The largest numbers of incidents were assigned as Category B (serious but not immediately life-threatening) and, after November 2019 when NIAS introduced a new Clinical Response Model (CRM), Category 2 (999 emergency – potentially serious incidents) with 18,145 and 11,745 call-outs respectively.

However, thousands were classed as Category A (2,496) and Category 1 (1,241) which refers to incidents that are potentially immediately life-threatening.

Releasing the details the NIAS explained that the calls may refer to a wide-range of conditions.

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"Mental health is a complex area which is difficult to quantify easily. Emergency Medical Dispatchers are reliant on limited information provided at the time of call.

"There is no specific code for 'mental health' in the Trust’s Command and Control system. The Trust code used is 'Psych/Abn Behaviour/Suicide'. Therefore any data provided will be based on the above chief complaint along with a review of the dispatch code and ‘what’s the problem’ which is free text based search on formal admission/mental health problems/hearing voices/suicide/self-harm/bi-polar disorder/depression.

"This will include formal admissions, for example Bluestone Unit [the Southern Trust's acute mental health inpatient care facility in Craigavon]."

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*Community Crisis Intervention Service - 028 7126 2300. Lifeline - 0808 808 8000; Samaritans - 02871 265511 or 116 123; Childline - 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk; Pieta House - 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444; TEXT Crisis Textline Ireland - 50808; Samaritans - 116-123.