A mental health charity based in Draperstown is backing a new campaign which is calling for patients to have more time to talk to their doctors.
Last week, a report was released detailing a number of major concerns over how mental health problems are being dealth with in Northern Ireland.
The research indicates that the majority of people in mental health distress, and their carers, believe they do not receive adequate information on where to go when in crisis (91%).
Over half (51%) report high levels of dissatisfaction with the type of care they receive, and almost everyone taking part in the research did not feel involved in decisions about how mental health services are run (97 %).
The research report, entitled “Time to Listen; Time to Act. Holding mental health services to account”, has been undertaken by groups of service users and carers from urban and rural areas across Northern Ireland.
These groups are collectively launching a Mental Health Rights Campaign to make simple improvements to mental health services, which have been identified by people directly affected by mental health issues.
They are calling on the Health Minister to meet with them to identify how these practical improvements can be put in place as quickly as possible.
The research has also identified that waiting times, in both A&E and GP settings, are a highly significant issue. These include 66% of patients and carers surveyed reported that waiting times at A&E were either unsatisfactory or very unsatisfactory.
And 44% of patients and carers surveyed were not satisfied with waiting times for accessing GP support.
Many respondents also cited short appointment times as a barrier to having an open discussion with their GP about their mental health.
Lynda McEldowney, a member of S.T.E.P.S, which is a Draperstown based group which works to raise awareness of suicide and mental health issues, said: “In rural areas, most people with mental health concerns will go to their GP to seek help.
“It is critical that they have the time to talk to their doctor about how they are feeling and what their treatment will be.”
Follow up care from A&E was also identified as a highly significant area of concern with none of those respondents who required a follow up appointment receiving a “Card Before You Leave” appointment card, despite the rollout of the appointment card scheme in 2011.
The ‘Card Before You Leave’ scheme requires that any patient discharged from A&E, without a full mental health assessment is given an appointment card with the date and time of their next appointment.
It has been referred to by campaigners as a “lifeline” to keep vulnerable people linked into services.