The tragic event of last week, the sorrow of the Glenn family and Jack’s wide circle of friends, has brought the people of Derry together not only in sympathy and solidarity but also in anger, writes SDLP Assembly candidate Mark H. Durkan.
People are angry at the very evident inadequacies of mental health services here. I have, for many years, highlighted the gross under-investment in mental health and the huge negative impact that this is having not only on individuals and their families, but on society as a whole. This is borne out in the number of suicides we have seen here, but sadly that is just the tip of the ice-berg. From addiction services to support for those with eating disorders, delays in diagnoses, to huge waits for treatment- the system is clearly broken. More and more people are seeking help and those dedicated professionals and groups who are there to help are struggling to meet this demand. Successive Health Ministers have vowed to make mental health a priority, yet last year only 5% of the Health Departments budget was spent on this massively important area. Different people, from highly- qualified experts to the ordinary man or woman on the street, have different views about what needs to be done, about what would work best. But all are in agreement that more needs to be done now. The SDLP wants to bring together everyone and all their ideas; be it a safe place to go for people in distress, a detox centre; more accessible and thorough counselling services; infrastructural changes to the bridge and more, to get some sort of consensus on what action needs taken. Then we need to take action. We are calling for the mental health service budget to be doubled. While £500m of public money is going up in smoke, surely we can find funds to save and improve many lives.