“Absolute silence for 30 minutes on school buses as all girls are using mobile phones…”

The headline is a quote from Bloomfield Collegiate School principal Gary Greer in a letter to parents. Pupils were informed this morning in registration that a mobile phone ban would be put in place for the remainder of the term. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, we have real concerns about mental health and the lack of ability to socialise due to too much screen time during lock down. It has been reported to me that there is absolute silence …

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Where are we with mental health stigma?

On March 24th 2015, the world was hit by the news that a German aircraft had crashed into the French Alps, killing 150 people. Information quickly started to circulate about an apparently ‘suicidal pilot’ who had deliberately caused the crash. He would later be named as 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz: he had co-piloted the flight and locked himself into the cockpit while the principle pilot was in the bathroom. Prior to any formal investigation, news outlets reported that Lubitz had been …

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Is Mental Health the New Wave Post Covid 19?

Covid 19 has presented many challenges since the inception of lockdown on March 23rd. An uncertain time with unwelcomed anxiety and disappointment that we were apart from friends and family. Although the relaxing of restrictions comes as a welcome relief it begs the question what other obstacles are potentially ahead of us post Covid 19? Lockdown was never going to be easy for anyone. However, consider the situation presented to someone struggling with mental health. Someone who was just about …

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Northern Ireland’s mental health crisis

Mental health is a global challenge, but poor mental health is at crisis levels in Northern Ireland. That crisis is in part an ongoing impact from the Troubles, Siobhan O’Neill, professor of mental health science at Ulster University, says in the latest Holywell Trust podcast. “We’re seeing a rise in mental health problems in the Western world,” says Siobhan. “We know that around one in four or one in five people in Europe and the West have a mental health …

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Northern Ireland’s Mental Health Crisis

We’re in a mental health crisis. It certainly feels like that when five people died by suicide during the Christmas period and mental illness continues to claim the lives of people we love in 2020. There is much to struggle with in these recent deaths. An 11 year old child. Parents of young children. For anyone who hasn’t experienced mental and emotional pain so deep and chronic that it disorders your thinking and twists your reality, such events are utterly …

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Doing time: the reality of prison for young men…

Across the UK, reports and inspections have continuously illuminated the ongoing concerns relating to the high levels of violence, self-harm and reoffending experienced by young men in prison, particularly in comparison to their older male counterparts. These issues are exacerbated by the high levels of lock-up and overcrowding all prisoners are subjected to. Within NI, Hydebank Wood Secure College (hereafter Hydebank) is responsible for imprisoning young men between the ages of 18 and 24. This event sets out the findings …

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‘The suicide rates are huge’ – Podcast interview with Senator Frances Black…

Senator Frances Black is an independent senator in Ireland’s Oireachtas and a member of its Good Friday Agreement Implementation Committee.  She has family roots in Rathlin Island and a strong commitment to addressing mental health challenges.  Frances is also a very modest person.  “I’m first and foremost a singer you know,” she says. “And I left school when I was very young. I don’t have a great language. But I do know that people understand the language of the heart.  …

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This is not a prison, the real prison is where we return to…

Interesting story from Reuters about South Koreans who pay to stay in a mock prison to get a break from the stress of their lives. From the post: Since 2013, the “Prison Inside Me” facility in northeast Hongcheon has hosted more than 2,000 inmates, many of them stressed office workers and students seeking relief from South Korea’s demanding work and academic culture. “I was too busy,” said Park as she sat in a 5-sq-m (54-sq-foot) cell. “I shouldn’t be here right …

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Help

This is not the post I planned to publish this morning, which will wait until later in the week.  However, events take a turn, and they make you reassess what is important. Yesterday an old friend of mine, a gentleman who was very kind to me and my then girlfriend back in 2005 when we were conducting an ultimately doomed long distance relationship, went missing.  It hit the headlines not just in NI but on local news sites across the …

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C’mon Arlene – Take action and start the journey of reconciliation with our community

Malachái O’Hara is the Green party rep for north Belfast, and LGBTQ activist. He was the vice chair of the equal marriage campaign and sits on the board of a suicide prevention charity.  On Monday 18th June, the Belfast Telegraph carried a front page headline that Former First Minister and current DUP leader Arlene Foster would attend an LGBT event. Despite repeated years of invitations by local LGBTQ groups, Arlene, as part of her continuing charm offensive (a well received visit …

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“School’s out for Summer Schools”: The Week In Irish Politics

So that’s it. The political term over and done with. Politicians off on their holidays and the lights all off in Leinster House. They’re all in Marbella, Magaluf or Corfu. At least that’s the impression you get any time you read the papers upon the rising of the houses of the Oireachtas for any recess. In reality, the political world keeps turning and politicians are still at work, be it in the constituency, developing policy, meetings with various groups, or …

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Beyond a Spin of the Wheel – GPs and mental health care

The crisis facing GP services in Northern Ireland has been well documented, including in previous posts on Slugger O’Toole.  Increasing patient lists, ‘red tape’, underfunding, an ageing workforce and the compounding of health issues in deprived communities due to austerity policies, are only some of the problems faced by the service. The British Medical Association has mooted the unwelcome spectre of GPs walking away from the NHS, while the Royal College of GPs NI, in an open letter, has highlighted …

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Battle against mental health issues continues with AWARE /CIPR partnership

It has been estimated that one in six of the population in Northern Ireland have a mental health need at any one time, with rates of depression associated with unemployment, low educational achievement and social deprivation. Workplace stress can contribute to mental ill health. Children and young people are suffering anxiety and depression and perinatal mental health also contributes. Local charity AWARE has been supporting those in Northern Ireland affected by depression and mental health disorders since 1996. It now …

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90% of the individuals admitted to PSNI custody suites have mental health problems

An eye-popping statistic emerged during the PSNI 15 Years On conference this week. While reflecting on the complex web of causal factors surrounding crime we learnt that ninety percent of the individuals admitted to PSNI custody suites had mental health problems.  Ninety percent.  Many had self harmed, some were at risk of suicide.  This raises the question -is the custody suite the correct place in which to detain these people?  Would an acute mental health assessment unit not be a …

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Locking up prisoners with mental health problems is both cruel and barbaric…

A few months ago I took a tour of the Crumlin Road Gaol. During the tour the guide explained how during the 19th century it was the practice to keep prisoners solitary at all times. This was known as the Separate System. To quote the Wikipedia article on it: The objective of such a prison or “penitentiary” was that of penance by the prisoners through silent reflection upon their crimes and behaviour, as much as that of prison security. Prisoners were alone …

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Open Letter to Minister Michelle O’Neill on NI’s poor treatment of mental health…

Megan Haste suffers from anxiety and depression. She shares her own experience of issues a sincere challenge to the new Health Minister to take mental health out of the third division status it currently enjoys in Northern Ireland I am a daughter, a sister, an auntie, and a friend. I am 19 years old, and for 6 years I have been living with mental illness. This year, just before my birthday, I started seeing a cognitive behavioural therapist. She is …

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Why mental health needs public champions not just information…

Siobhan O’Neill is a professor of mental health sciences at Ulster University. She is currently leading several studies on mental health and suicide in Northern Ireland. It seems that we can’t move nowadays with mental health awareness; the latest being Princes Harry and William, and Princess Katherine, all throwing their weight behind campaigns to get people talking about mental health. About time too. With (at least) one in four people suffering from a mental illness at some point in their …

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Mental Health Awareness Week: A Personal Story of Struggle

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW15).  While as a society we become more aware of statistics around the subject and a number of steps have been taken to try to work around stigma and promote messages about recovery, still so often we forget so often about the individual behind the statistic, the loved ones watching on and desperately trying to help but unsure what to do or where to turn to. So here is a blog I have …

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DLA, mental health, and the legacy of the Troubles

The debate surrounding welfare reform in Northern Ireland has gradually seen opinion divide into one of two camps; those who decry any reform of the system as “ruthless Tory cuts”, and those on the other hand who see the swelling ranks of those claiming DLA as evidence that the feckless and workshy are gaining a free ride. The truth is, as ever, somewhat more complex. There is no doubt that the numbers in Northern Ireland claiming DLA are vastly higher …

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The Germanwings tragedy. A personal reflection on mental health problems…

The media are reporting that the recent crash of Germanwings flight 4U92525 was a deliberate act by the co-pilot. Can this be so? Is this possible? Yes. I know no more than you about what happened, or the mental state of the co-pilot. There’s no doubt that similar incidents in the past were related to the mental illness of the pilot. There have been too many ‘single vehicle road traffic collisions’ where it’s abundantly clear that the driver of the …

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