More evidence has emerged of the mental health crisis gripping local communities after it was revealed that the number of people battling depression in the Southern Trust area has increased by 20 percent since 2013.
The figures, released by the new Health Minister Michelle O’Neill at the Northern Ireland Assembly, lay bare the alarming extent of mental illness in society.
The GP depression register now stands at 7.9% of the over 18 population in the Southern Trust area, with the Belfast area having the highest rate at 8.5% and the Northern Trust area the lowest at 7%.
With greater awareness of mental health issues it is much easier for patients to acknowledge a problem to their GP, which undoubtedly skews the figures.
In the 12 months to last April, a total of 299,946 people in Northern Ireland were prescribed mental health medication. That is equivalent to one in every six of our 1.8 million population. The number of sufferers has risen significantly compared to 2012/13, when 274,770 were receiving anti-depressants.
Shockingly, the most recent figure includes around 550 children under the age of 16, and a further 5,500 teenagers aged between 16 and 19.
The number of children and teenagers given the drugs has increased year-on-year since 2012.
Responding to the figures, Minister O’Neill said: “The Health and Social Care Board is currently establishing Primary Care Talking Therapy Hubs across all Trust areas to improve access to talking therapies and lifestyle support for people who have common mental health needs, for example, depression, anxiety, stress, etc. It is anticipated that when fully developed over the next three years, these Hubs will provide care for an additional 20,000 people per year.” She added that under a new initiative over 300 staff have been trained in psychological therapies.