Belfast Telegraph - Sept 10th


Service for mentally ill 'not good enough'

Charity workers training doctors

By Brendan McDaid

10 September 2004


GPs and emergency staff are being trained by charity workers to deal with mentally ill patients in Londonderry, it emerged today.

The development comes as Derry-based group, STEER Mental Health hit out at the attitude of some local health professionals towards those who self-harm or attempt suicide.

The Western Health and Social Services Board has now secured the services of STEER in a bid to increase understanding among local doctors and surgeons.

The charity's head of public relations, John Llewellyn, James today said medical staff passing judgment on patients was totally unacceptable.

He said: "The majority of medical personnel are very good and very supportive, but there is a minority who have not had sufficient awareness or training around mental health issues.

"They tend to see people who self harm as: 'you have done this to yourself, I don't have time for you; I want to look after people who are really sick'.

"When a person attempts suicide or self-harm they are already at a very low place and to receive negative comments and hurtful statements doesn't help them at all.

Mr Llewellyn James said they had many clients who had related such experiences to them.

He added that it took a lot of courage for someone with mental illness to make initial contact with doctors.

"Unfortunately if a person has a bad experience, their whole future relationship with mental health services is affected."

He added, however, that there were numerous difficulties facing local medical staff.

He said: "GPs do not have a lot of time, maximum eight minutes, and mental health difficulties take a lot of time.

"There are a lot of good GPs who have done their very best, but there is an added difficulty in that a lot of the burden falls on the primary care of GPs and the Accident and Emergency staff.

"GPs and other consultants find it very difficult to refer people on because there is a lack of community-based services."