Action Mental Health and its loyal supporters old and new have had a busy week marking World Mental Health Day. Schools, businesses, community groups, individuals and clients who attend AMH services have been Going Purple for Parity. That means they’ve been walking purple miles, holding purple-themed coffee mornings, quizzes, parties and a whole host of activities besides – all to help the charity hammer home its call to Go Purple for Parity.
That campaign call echoes this year’s global theme of WMHD – mental health in an unequal world – with Action Mental Health calling for equality of investment in mental health services in line with that channelled into physical health. That is because for too long, the mental health of Northern Ireland has been underfunded and undervalued. As a neglected ‘Cinderella service’, it has been in the shadows and overlooked.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated a situation in which more people in Northern Ireland already experience 25% greater mental health issues than anywhere else in the United Kingdom and it needs to be urgently addressed.
The support for the Go Purple for Parity campaign not only helps Action Mental Health champion the wider campaign, it also helps the charity raise vital funds to support our own mental health services for local people.
The recently announced Ten-Year Mental Health Strategy, announced by Health Minister Robin Swann, and the appointment of Mental Health Champion are steps in the right direction. However, these initiatives ring hollow if they are not matched by the investment required to bring Northern Ireland’s mental health service up to scratch.
To illustrate the level of mental health issues in Northern Ireland, evidence shows that one in five people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives, and half of all these problems start before the age of 14.
Last year our services supported over 30,000 local people through a range of recovery programmes, resilience-building and counselling services, in schools, in businesses and on a one-to-one basis.
As we once again celebrate World Mental Health Day, please join with us in calling for parity for mental health services, so that they are properly funded and resourced in line with physical health and so that the Mental Health Strategy can deliver the positive change we need and that we all want to see.