BY EMMET McELHATTON
A NEW £10 million fund will ‘go a long way’ in helping people in Tyrone suffering with mental ill-health, a local charity has claimed.
The fund, which has been officially opened by the Health Minister, Robin Swann, allows community and voluntary mental health organisations to apply for grants from £3,000 to upwards of £500,000 in exceptional circumstances.
Tom McElneany, head of business development and support services at Aware, said, “We welcomed the Department of Health’s announcement of the ten-year mental health strategy, and now we welcome the opening of this £10m fund.
“The community voluntary sector don’t always get the money we need, so it is an important step in the right direction that we’ve been identified as a key part of the effort to improve mental health.
“We believe this is not an anomaly or one-off from the health department. Rather, this £10 million should be the start of a recurring theme in its funding – consistent investment in the community and voluntary sector until eventually we are fully integrated with the statutory sector.”
Mr McElneany also said the funding had come at a pivotal time, with the pandemic having exacerbated the North’s already pressing mental health problems.
“We face some serious, but not insurmountable issues, here,” he continued.
“By population, we prescribe more anti-depressants than England, Scotland or Wales, and proportionally it is also true that our mental health services receive less funding than theirs.”
But Mr McElneany expressed hope on behalf of the community and voluntary sector, that this money would help charities, like Aware, reach deeper into communities, including Omagh and the surrounding areas, and provide help for everyone who needs it.
“Rural areas around Omagh face a unique set of challenges with regard to mental health,” he said. “Often there are a lack of services and partnerships with local community organisations, making help seem out-of-reach and inaccessible.
“Subject to successful application, this money will give us the opportunity to establish more connections and partnerships in these communities, thereby facilitating a non-judgmental, confidential space for people battling stress, depression and other forms of mental ill-health.”