Health Minister Robin Swann has published the Mental Health Action Plan as part of his commitment to improve the mental health of the population in Northern Ireland.
The Action Plan contains 38 actions, including a commitment to produce a mental health strategy, which will include a comprehensive funding plan for mental health. There is also a plan on dealing with the response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Minister said: “Since taking up post as Minister for Health, I have been very clear that mental health is a priority for me. The Mental Health Action Plan is the first in a series of steps I will take to ensure those suffering from mental ill health will be able to access the services they need, when they need them. The importance of this has been brought into sharp focus during these unprecedented times, when the mental health of the population is suffering as a result of the devastating impact of COVID-19. That is why the Action Plan includes a dedicated COVID-19 response plan which outlines the psychological wellbeing and mental health response to the current pandemic.”
The Minister outlined other commitments within the Action Plan. He said: “I am delighted to announce specialist perinatal mental health services, the development of managed care networks for child and adolescent mental health services and forensic mental health services. In addition there will be further support for mental health in primary care.”
The plan creates clear linkages with other mental health improvement work including the Inter-Departmental action plan in response to NICCY’s Still Waiting report. It prepares the way for a new mental health strategy by evaluating existing policies and creating new governance structures to aid the delivery of a new strategy.
In conclusion the Minister thanked the stakeholders who played a part in developing the Plan. He said: “The Action Plan will provide a common focus and direction for the development of mental health services, while also delivering key improvements to services needed right now. It will put the foundations in place for the longer term, strategic improvements which will be set out in the new Mental Health Strategy, which I will publish by the end of the year.”