Mental health lifeline faces axe

A lifeline for people at risk of suicide could be facing the axe, campaigners warned today. Bereaved families, carers and mental health patients have called for the Stormont Health Minister to intervene and save the Card Before You Leave (CBYL) scheme.

The initiative was introduced in 2011 and gives people in severe distress a written guarantee that they will receive a full psychiatric appointment within 24 hours.

Bobby Duffin, whose daughter died by suicide, said: “We campaigned long and hard for this so that things would change and I really hope that the Health and Social Care Board and the minister start showing that they take this problem seriously. We went to them in good faith and worked alongside them to produce positive results. They need to keep that going.”

Last month it was revealed that more than 200 suicides were recorded in Northern Ireland during the first nine months of 2012.

Dr Elizabeth Mitchell told the Stormont health committee that coroners had registered 223 deaths by suicide between January and September last year.

Men living in socially deprived areas of north and west Belfast were particularly affected.

Figures also showed that the rate of suicide among young people in Ireland was among the highest in Europe. An estimated 165 teenagers and young men took their own lives in the Republic of Ireland in 2011, while another 72 died by suicide in Northern Ireland.

Stephanie Green from the lobby group, Participation and the Practice of Rights, said: “The need on the ground is there; the evidence that this scheme works is there.

“The minister needs to intervene to support the BMHRG, service users, carers and their families and schemes which work like the Card Before You Leave.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “There is no suggestion that the Card Before You Leave scheme will be stood down. The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) has undertaken an evaluation of the operation and effectiveness of the Card Before You Leave scheme.

“The report of the evaluation is expected to be issued shortly.”