Mental health: ‘Urgent action needed over epidemic’

Koulla YiasoumaImage copyright

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Koulla Yiasouma said progress in implementing recommendations in a report produced 12 months ago had been ‘too slow’

The new executive must act urgently if it is to “divert the current mental health epidemic among young people”, NI’s children’s commissioner has said.

Koulla Yiasouma said progress in implementing recommendations in a report produced 12 months ago had been “too slow”.

The report was a review of children and young people’s mental health services.

It was a stark read capturing the scale of mental health problems among primary school children and teenagers.

Among its key findings were that young people are waiting too long to ask for help and even longer to access the right support.

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While there has been some progress implementing the report’s 50 recommendations, Ms Yiasouma warned it was now time for the executive to “step up a gear”.

“While I welcome this progress, it has been too slow and written commitments to transforming the system are too vague and unambitious,” she said.

“There is not enough money in the system, and it is nonsensical to throw the very limited budget we do have into the air, hoping it lands in the right place.

“Planning must be based on robust data and at the minute we do not know enough about how well services are responding to our children and young people.”


As this is children’s mental health week, extra focus is on the welfare of young people especially in those areas where rates of depression and suicide are unusually high.

The commissioner is due to address Stormont’s Health Committee on Thursday morning at which she is expected to outline her frustration around the pace of progress in this area.

“This was never a report I was going to sit on in the hope that a new executive would be formed,” the commissioner said.

“We gained support from all political parties, called for an interdepartmental group to be established and then engaged and advised them while monitoring their progress.”


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