Parties team up to support new mental health strategy

THE SDLP and DUP are set to team up to call for a ‘pandemic recovery plan’ to address deteriorating mental health and lengthy delays to access support.

Dunsilly SDLP rep Ryan Wilson is tabling a joint motion with DUP Councillor Linda Clarke, seeking cross party support for the establishment of a strategy to address mental health problems which have been exacerbated during the Covid pandemic.

Commenting on the motion, Councillor Wilson said: “Whilst priority is inevitably being given towards stimulating the high street and hospitality sectors, we mustn’t ignore the impact that repeated periods of lockdown, furlough pay and worries about redundancy have had on people.

“As well as these massively stressful challenges, citizens across the borough have been juggling home working commitments, whilst also having to support their families and deal with home schooling.

“My DUP colleague Linda Clarke and I are calling for council to support the recovery, by ensuring that mental illness is not compounded by lengthy delays in accessing services like counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy.

“We believe that council has an important role to play in developing a strategy which addresses these concerns.”

A joint motion, supported by DUP and SDLP will come before council soon and seeks cross party support to begin this important work.

Alderman Linda Clarke added: “We are undoubtedly in the midst of a mental health crisis caused by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I look forward to working with my council colleagues and other key stakeholders to develop an all-encompassing strategy to support local people facing challenges with their mental health.”

Commenting on the motion due to be brought forward to council by the SDLP and DUP, Trevor Clarke MLA said: “I commend the members for having the foresight and determination to bring this motion to the council.

“Both councillors represent rural areas, often forgotten about communities that have unfortunately been heavily impacted by mental illness throughout the pandemic.

“It should be noted that there are already some excellent organisations across South Antrim supporting those with mental health problems but we must recognise the difficulties faced by people attempting to reach out to access these services.

“By bringing forward a borough-specific strategy, I trust this will enhance the accessibility of services and ensure those needing help are always supported.”

SDLP councillor Roisin Lynch added: “I have been in recent meetings with a number of local primary school principals and leaders, who tell me their task to educate and ensure happy, well-rounded children in their care is being hampered by the lack of services to meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of children.

“The need outstrips schools access to services leaving the most vulnerable families to fend for themselves.

“Anything we can do as a Council to support the mental health and wellbeing of children and their families across Antrim and Newtownabbey is welcome and is the right thing to do”

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