Health Board to meet with mental health campaigners

The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) has agreed to meet with campaigners to discuss a public information campaign which a local suicide prevention worker says discriminates against the mentally ill.

The HSCB’s ‘Choose Well’ public information campaign aims to inform people of the range of services available to treat health issues.

However, Co-ordinator and Chairperson of PIPS Larne Carlee Letson told The Times that she believes the campaign promotes inequality by excluding information for those with mental health issues.

She is backing human rights group Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR)’s ‘Mental Health Rights’ campaign to amend the ‘Choose Well’ initiative.

Carlee explained: “The Choose Well public information leaflet currently contains nothing to help and support people with mental illnesses, increasing stigma around suicide and mental illness.

“The first point of contact should be their GP, but there is nothing telling them that.

“We have been calling on Health Minister Edwin Poots to put information on that leaflet to direct people to mental health services.

“We welcome the chance to meet with the HSCB, but mental health faciliites should have been one of the things that the Choose Well campaign targeted from the beginning.

“One out of every five people suffers from a mental health problem. It’s important to have signposting for urgent mental health care as well as physical.”

PPR’s Mental Health Rights campaign states that nine out of ten mental health service users and carers surveyed lacked information on where to go for help in mental health crisis.

It continues: “The Choose Well campaign contains no information relevant to mental health and the help available for people in distress.

“The omission of this information reinforces the stigma around mental health and means people may not know where to go to access services.”

The Mental Health Rights group are petitioning Edwin Poots to revise the Choose Well campaign, include information about where people in mental health distress should go, and involve mental health patients and carers in the development of this information.

The petition is available to sign at PIPS Larne from 11am-2pm on Monday, and Carlee is calling on local MLAs to sign the pledge.

A HSCB spoksperson commented: “The Choose Well Campaign was primarily developed to address low awareness in the range of services available for minor ailments/injuries, limited awareness of Minor Injury Units, and often inappropriate use of services, including Emergency Departments and GP Out of Hours.

“However, we fully recognise that there is always scope to develop the campaign and would welcome the opportunity to meet with Participation and Practice of Rights and other key stakeholders to discuss how best mental health could be incorporated into Year Two of Choose Well.”