Dr Gerry Lynch, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Northern Ireland, reflects on our Mental Health services and the College’s role.
“Without mental health, there can be no true physical health” (Dr Brock Chisholm, first Director General of the WHO).
Northern Ireland has the highest rate of mental illness in the UK, but percentage spend devoted to mental health services is half that of England. Consequences are: difficulties for all ages accessing treatments; bed occupancy usually over 100 per cent; crisis/home treatment teams’ caseload at excessive levels; heavy demands on community mental health teams; and a lack of access to specialist services such as perinatal mental health.
The College is uniquely placed to have an overview as our members work across the entire spectrum of mental illness. We are committed to working with service users and carers, with other professionals, with the community and voluntary sector and with government to improve the situation. Whilst making the case for extra investment, we must also work to ensure that we are delivering optimally within current resources. This means that Trusts work together in a more coordinated way and that statutory and voluntary services work closely together, with service users’ and carers’ input.
Our lobbying has been productive: a Regional Trauma network established, a Collaborative underway to examine ways to tackle our suicide rate (sadly the highest in these islands), the Department of Health working on a five year mental health plan and physical health monitoring for those with serious mental illness secured. These are encouraging developments, but we are as yet a long way from achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical health services.