Mental health services in NI dealing with more patients than they can cope with, figures reveal

New figures obtained by UTV show that Northern Ireland's mental health services are dealing with more patients than they can cope with - and some acute inpatient services are running at up to 130% capacity.

People have claimed that the system is buckling, as demand for services soars.

One organisation that is supporting the under-pressure system is the Zachary Geddis Mental Health Charity in Coleraine, which helps young children learn, through play, how to process emotions.

It was set up by Louise Geddis' family with her husband and daughter after her son Zachary died by suicide in 2017 at the age of 20.

They know the importance of getting access to the right support - it's a battle they are fighting themselves with Zachary's father Terry suffering from severe depression since his son's death.

Terry has attempted suicide on a number of occasions and has been an inpatient four times.

His family feel he is being failed by the health system.

Louise said: "So we went and seen a doctor only last week and the doctor was only there for five days and then they were going without a doctor so Terry was telling the doctor how he was feeling - he was feeling suicidal - and the doctor turned round and said to him 'man up', and we were in total and absolute shock."

His daughter Yasmine, who runs the charity, said that the lack of proper mental health services has led to an explosion of people coming to her looking for help, as they are unable to access it through the health service.

She added: "We're doing something that statutory should already be doing and we don't have half the money, a quarter of the money they do.

"We're on a very, very limited budget but we're really, really expanding that and thinking about new ways to tackle mental health problems that are presenting."

Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland, Professor Siobhan O'Neill said: "There's been a rise in the demand for mental health services, and indeed the need for mental health services, over the past 10 years and that's common across all the countries in the western world but our mental health services haven't caught up.

"There has been underinvestment again for a number of years, we are now in a situation where we don't have enough beds for people, we don't have the services..."

A 10 year mental health strategy for Northern Ireland was launched two years ago, but there are concerns that budget constraints will make it challenging to deliver.

Prof O'Neill added: "There will be money invested there but I'm just concerned that it's not going to be enough really to meet the needs and more people will suffer and their mental health will become worse and they will need more care in the meantime, if we don't have the investment we need right now."

In a statement, the Northern Trust said that they are aware of the concerns raised by the Geddis family but do not comment on individual cases.

If you, or someone you know, has been affected by any of these issues you can find help and advice from Samaritans.

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