East Antrim Ulster Unionist representative Roy Beggs MLA has attended the Stormont launch of his Party’s policy document on Mental Health and Wellbeing. In recent times, the UUP MLA has presented a petition on mental health and wellbeing to the Education Minister, in conjunction with Carrickfergus Grammar School pupil Sara Patterson.
Mr Beggs said “I welcome the published policy paper by the UUP on mental health and wellbeing as this is an area which has been underfunded and where Northern Ireland has particular issues given the legacy of the troubles. In addition to the legacy issues, I am also aware of ongoing issues with our young people. Last year I worked closely with then Carrickfergus Grammar School pupil Sara Patterson to present a petition with over 600 local signatories to the Education Minister in a bid to make Mental health and Wellbeing a compulsory element of the curriculum in NI.
The pressures on young people today are different to previous generations. There is increased pressure on achieving academic results and fewer young people are active in terms of sport and less time is being spent outside in the natural environment. The internet, computer gaming and social media can also create problems in terms of isolation. Internet bullying can lead to the loss of self-esteem and poor mental ill-health. The smart phone has now brought the intensity of social media pressures to a new level.”
With this in mind, I am pleased that a section of our policy document states that we should ‘apply a greater emphasis on education, prevention and early intervention, working in collaboration with the Department of Education.’ I believe that this will build on the work of the petition on 2015.”
Ulster Unionist Party Leader Mike Nesbitt MLA, pictured alongside Mr Beggs MLA, said “I have taken my campaign to the Prime Minister in London. He gets it, and indeed recently pledged a huge spend on mental health issues in England. The shadow Secretary of State get it, and labour have agreed that this is an area of need where Northern Ireland can argue for additional, ring fenced funding from the Treasury. All the local political parties also seem to understand the debilitating nature of the problem which is likely to see one in four of us suffer some form of mental health issue this year. The evidence is there. This is our assessment of practical, affordable nest steps to tackling the problem.”