Almost 700 emergency mental health calls were made in past five years

ALMOST 700 calls were made made from the district to the Ambulance Service in the past five years in relation to people who had overdosed or were feared to have attempted suicide.

With around 200 of those calls being made last year alone and figures increasing since 2007, concerns have arisen around support services in the area.

Users of a mental health service in the town’s Rathfriland Street have voiced their fears for its future two months after severe cuts were imposed and ahead of a crunch meeting with the Trust.

MindWise, a mental health charity in Northern Ireland, operates a centre in Rathfriland Street but had its opening hours reduced, and budget slashed by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust late last year.

One 54-year-old woman who is a regular attendee at Mindwise said the service is needed in the area now more than ever.

“Cuts are being made at a time when more people are suffering with mental health problems. People here are dealing with a range of issues, from depression to schizophrenia and so on.”

Anne Doherty, a director with the charity which supports people with a range of mental health issues, said she was hopeful ahead of a meeting to discuss the service’s future in the town.

“You have to think of everything as an opportunity,” she told the Leader. “Service users are taking greater ownership of the club, they are developing programmes of activities.

“But it is fair to say the service has been wounded and they are trying to move forward.”

The service user said the charity cannot continue in this manner, with users left feeling as if they are expected to cope alone.

“With the cuts they expect us to do as many activities as before but you just can’t fit that in in the time you’ve got. Now mostly people just go home. I feel we are being left to cope on our own.

“They say we should go out into the community, and I agree with that. But the users of this service, including myself, need the support of the facility we have here in Banbridge. It is a safe haven for us and we are all so worried that it might be lost. If the funding and staff have been cut already who knows what will happen next. We could lose the service altogether.”

The service user said staff may have had their hours cut but they have to are doing their best to ensure they provide all the help those attending the service need, even if that means working longer for no extra money.

“They don’t have time to clean the place and keep things running while catering for our needs too so some of them end up having to work on. It’s just ridiculous to cut such a vital service.

“Before I would’ve used the service from 9am until 4.30pm and enjoyed every minute of it. But now a lot of people just go home, and sit on their own and surely that’s not healthy? I just go home and have nothing to do.

“This service is a lifesaver for everybody. We are all very concerned about what the future holds. “

Last year the Leader revealed that the equivalent of two people in the district have been admitted to hospital each week in the past 10 years after self-harming.

Sixty-three people lost their lives by suicide across the district between 2000 and 2010.