Theres a mental health epidemic in West Belfast – Monica Digney
Speaking in relation to the challenges facing West Belfast, Aontú candidate Monica Digney stated:
"There are a myriad of issues coming up on the doors in West Belfast, but by far the most prevalent is the mental health epidemic. This issue is affecting young and old, male and female. Currently we are witnessing on average two suicides a week. Families and communities are being devastated.
"Last year, the Mental Health Foundation and the College of Psychiatrists found that more people died from suicide in the north after the Good Friday Agreement than lost their lives as a result of the conflict . The north of Ireland has a higher suicide rate than any other region in Ireland and a rate higher than any region in Britain, with West and North Belfast the worst afflicted parts of the north.
"Clearly, poverty and deprivation are reasons for the sense of hopelessness that many of our people feel. There has been a dearth of investment in West Belfast since the Good Friday Agreement, with only a nominal amount of funding from Invest NI compared to other areas of the city. In fact, West Belfast is placed at the bottom of all 18 constituencies in the north in terms of financial assistance and new jobs. We have also seen little or no investment in infrastructure, transport and housing. This cynical and targeted economic injustice is completely unacceptable.
"Rising drug and alcohol misuse, unemployment, welfare cuts, and the legacy of the conflict are other reasons for the mental health epidemic in West Belfast, however the lack of timely and appropriate mental health provision is also failing many of our most vulnerable people.
"All of this begs the question - where has the peace dividend been for our community? Clearly, the current system and outlook of the embedded etablishment parties have resulted in further stagnation, poverty and very limited opportunities for the community here.
"On behalf of the people of West Belfast, I pledge to fight for economic justice and for the fair and equal distribution of wealth that the people of West Belfast deserve. I pledge to fight for more funding for mental health services, community groups and charities that currently support many people suffering from mental health, drug and alcohol abuse. I refuse to let this situation continue to spiral out of control for the people of my community. People in West Belfast are being left without their right to be treated with respect and dignity and provided the opportunities to live productive and fulfilling lives."