21 Feb 2005

THE Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Nigel Williams, today warned of the crisis facing child and adolescent mental health services.

Speaking today (Tuesday) at the NICCY conference “Hope” on Suicide and Self-Harm at the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast Mr Williams said young people were suffering each day because of ongoing problems within the very services meant to help them.

“It is unacceptable we cannot find beds in hospitals for young people at risk,” said the Commissioner. “It is unacceptable that a number of mental health beds have been closed because of staffing problems; it is unacceptable that there are not enough resources for teenage girls with eating disorders; and, it is unacceptable that proposed Government cuts will close projects working to help prevent suicide and self-harm.”

Mr Williams said that this conference was one of many initiatives aimed at pulling together the good work on the ground and calling for concerted action to address the issues of suicide and self-harm

“Our in patient service is creaking at the seams, although there are promises of extra provision. There are great examples of prevention work and of primary care both in schools and in the community but they are too few, and their funding is too short term and fragile,” said the commissioner.

“One of the things we want to happen is identifying ways that policy and working practices change. By bringing best practice together at today’s event we can really focus on what works.”

One of the young people speaking at the conference is Danielle Watt.

She said: "Killing yourself and hurting yourself is something that is too often on the minds of young people as we face the stresses of our lives. I know that it is an issue for young people throughout Northern Ireland, not just Belfast, and it is important that conferences like this one look at the problem right across the country."

Mr Williams said that a number of elements of a solution where already in place - what was needed was clearer leadership, a comprehensive strategy and ring fenced resources.

For further information on the work of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People please visit www.niccy.org.