“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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

My Battle with Anxiety and How I Beat It

This is a soapbox from a person who wishes to remain anonymous, but wanted to share their story about how they dealt with and recovered from an Anxiety Disorder. This is their story I suffer from an anxiety disorder, there I said it. Anxiety can be a difficult thing to admit to. After all, who would willingly admit to suffering from something that the vast majority of the population seem to deal with on a regular basis? But this is … Read more

Mental health on death row

This winter will mark 53 years since the last use of capital punishment in Northern Ireland. On 20 December 1961 Robert McGladdery became the last man to be hanged in Belfast’s Crumlin Road Gaol, for the murder of Pearl Gamble. The death penalty for murder was finally abolished in Northern Ireland on 25 July 1973. However, depending on where you live, you can be beheaded for charges of sorcery, stoned for adultery, or hanged for drug smuggling. This is 2014, and … Read more