Mental health care provision in the Derry area has been branded “lamentable” by campaigners lobbying for local detox services to deal with the city’s spiralling addiction problems.
The ‘Detox for Derry’ group is urging political, civic and community leaders to use their influence to demand Community Crisis Intervention Services [CCIS] as a matter of urgency.
The group spoke out after new figures revealed that, across the North over the past year, there have been more than 300 suicides.
Separate research also discovered that more people have taken their own lives in NI since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement than were killed during the “Troubles”.
Civil rights veteran Fionnbarra O’Dochartaigh, who helped establish the Detox for Derry group back in 2013, says campaigners have had to cope with “broken promises and inaction” over the past five years.
“There is justified widespread anger, growing disillusionment and a deep sense of betrayal across Derry and the North West,” he said.
“It’s now nearly four years since a petition - signed by 48,000 people - was delivered to Stormont. More than 25,000 others endorsed the campaign online. And, yet, Derry was still by-passed as the preferred site for a detox centre.
“Despite this, the priority must remain the creation of local 24/7 Community Crisis Intervention Services (CCIS) to provide professional assessment and sign-posting specific treatment for individual clients.”
Mr O’Dochartaigh has also queried “officialdom’s sense of ‘a duty of care’.”
“Jail and fines are no remedies where mental health is concerned, especially where many defendants are incarcerated due to alcohol abuse and, by their release date, have developed an addiction to drugs,” he said.
“Where are our civil and human rights or accountable local democracy when literally tens of thousands, including those on the electoral register, can not only be ignored but, in my opinion, betrayed?
“Any family, regardless of class, creed or ethnic group can be affected. We should all recognise and take a stand as tragic mounting death rates have sadly become ‘the new normal’.
“All this is due to official neglect and by what appears to be apparent grass-roots apathy, indifference or, dare one suggest, the luxury of short-sighted ignorance.”
In recent weeks, hundreds of “outreach cards”, including contact details for the Detox for Derry group and help-lines, have been distributed across the city.