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Our Mental Health System

As a young person who has been through CAMHS and now in adult mental health services I know what it’s like to suffer from mental health issues.

The mental health crisis in Northern Ireland is a very worrying issue. Research shows that Northern Ireland has one of the highest rates of mental illness in Europe and accounts for 16 deaths per 100 000 individuals per year. The prevalence of mental health issues in N.I is 25% higher than England- despite this, only 6% of the health budget here is spent on treating mental illness.

Among young people in Northern Ireland there is a very worrying trend. 12.6% of children and young people in Northern Ireland experience common mood disorders such as anxiety and depression – around 25% higher than the other parts of the UK! 1 in 20 young people have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Almost 1 in 10 young people in N.I have admitted to self harming and roughly 1 in 8 reported have thought about or attempted suicide. 44% of young people aged 16-25 in Northern Ireland report experiencing some form of mental health problem- almost half of young people. This is a shocking statistic! 

So what support is out there?

From a young age I attended Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) which was a great sense of support. However waiting lists for CAMHS can sometimes take months or years- this is not acceptable, often resulting in children and teenagers having to present to A&E at times of crisis. Even after attending A&E they are often put on yet another waiting list. 

I am now under adult mental health services and whilst they have been helpful, waiting lists are still far too long through no fault of the excellent staff who try their best to support you. I waited 9 months for a psychology referral despite it being deemed urgent- this is unacceptable and very unfair to those in desperate need of the likes of CBT.

However what can you do whilst waiting for a referral to mental health services?

When I was younger I often attended and still attend my local YMCA who provide endless support and brilliant distractions from my mental health issues. Finding a good youth club is a fantastic way to find support and make new friends- the youth leaders can also signpost you to other organisations which they believe could help. I also attend Extern and Alternatives Restorative Justice who support young people up to the age of 25. Extern youth workers provide one to one support when you are struggling and have very short waiting lists so you can access support almost immediately! 

You can phone Samaritans on 0330 094 5717 for immediate support in a crisis.

There is a great text support line for those like me who don’t feel as comfortable talking on the phone. Text SHOUT’ to 85258 and a crisis volunteer should reply within 5 minutes to support you. For those under 25 The Mix also provides this service. From their website:

Do you need help now? Our crisis messenger text service provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, and are experiencing any painful emotion or are in crisis, you can text THEMIX to 85258.We need to work together to improve mental health services in Northern Ireland- we are worth FAR more than 6% of funding! We deserve better!
By Naomi H

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