84% believe NI mental health services are underfunded, says new poll

The findings come amid warnings from health chiefs that demand for services is on the rise. Credit: UTV

Mental health services in Northern Ireland are underfunded, that's according to more than four fifths of respondents to a new LucidTalk survey.

The same percentage, 84% also think demand for treatment will rise in the future. The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland (RCPsych NI) has called on Stormont ministers to commit to boost funding for mental health services.

Younger adults seem to be most concerned about underfunding, with 91% of 18 to 24-year olds believing more money is required. For the over-25s, the figure was 82%.

The online poll surveyed more than 3,000 adults in Northern Ireland last month. The findings come amid warnings from health chiefs that demand for services is on the rise.

A draft three-year budget for Northern Ireland had prioritised the health service, with the sector set for a 10% increase in cash funds in the period 2022-25.

However, the collapse of the Executive following the resignation of DUP First Minister Paul Givan means that spending plan will not be agreed ahead of May's Assembly election.

RCPsych NI has launched its own manifesto prior to the election urging politicians to commit to boosting funding for mental health.

Dr Richard Wilson, chair of RCPsych NI, said: "We've welcomed the focus of all parties on mental health and the publication of the 10-year Mental Health Strategy, but we still need to close the gap between funding for mental and physical health.

"The poll clearly shows people think that the need for mental health services will increase and funding should be focused on delivering these, particularly as we recover from a pandemic.

The simple fact is, without funding the Mental Health Strategy will remain just a vision.

"As we launch our manifesto, we're appealing to all political parties to ensure they continue to build on the momentum already started to deliver real change."

Action for Children, an organisation whose services include mental health support at five hubs across Northern Ireland, said the survey results highlighted one of the consequences of the pandemic.

Lorna Ballard, national director for Action for Children in Northern Ireland, said: "Today's report is yet another reminder of the added toll of the pandemic on the mental health of our children.

"Every day our frontline services see children and young people struggling to cope within a system that is not adequately resourced to meet their needs and give them the chance to thrive.

"Our Early Intervention Support services have seen a rise in the request for support with mental health and anxiety as other areas of support have extremely long waiting lists."

She added: "If we want to get this right and give our children the best start in life, we need continued support from all parties, cross-departmental collaboration and  serious commitment to funding."