Emma Fitzpatrick

Belfast Telegraph

22 February 2005

Young people in Northern Ireland are suffering because of insufficient mental health facilities, a conference in Belfast was told today.

Nigel Williams, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, was speaking at a conference in Belfast on Preventing Suicide and Self-Harm.

The aim of the event was to urge the Government to take action to reduce the number of child suicides in Northern Ireland.

Mr Williams said that the conference had given people in charge of developing policies the chance to meet with over 100 young people to discuss the issues.

He added: "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.

"It is unacceptable we cannot find beds in hospitals for young people at risk. 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."

He said it was also unacceptable that proposed government cuts will close projects working to help prevent suicide and self-harm.

Speaking at the conference, he claimed that patient service here was "creaking at the seams".

Although there have been promises of extra provision, the proposals were "too few, their funding too short term and fragile," he said.

The conference, entitled 'Hope', was held at the Park Avenue Hotel.