Ashton Community Trust’s Head of Victims & Mental Health Services Irene Sherry was part of an all-Ireland delegation examining issues of mental health and wellbeing with European officials in Brussels this week.
The 40-strong delegation was invited to the European Parliament by Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ni Riada to take part in a series of roundtable meetings with policy-makers, researchers, campaigners and civil society groups.
The aim of the event was to inform participants of initiatives and best practice locally as well as at an European level; facilitate networking; share knowledge and experience; raise issues and concerns; feed into policy formation, and raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing generally.
Speaking about the event Liadh Ní Riada said mental health was an issue that affects us all.
“Mental illness affects one in four of us, and there isn’t a family in Ireland that hasn’t a story to tell. Austerity and the economic crisis have had negative impacts on mental health and wellbeing across society and on our men in particular. This coupled with government cuts has led to unacceptable gaps in our mental health services. It is important that those active in the mental health and wellbeing field have their voices heard, and I am glad to have the opportunity to host and facilitate this event.”
During the event, Head of Victims & Mental Health Services Irene Sherry highlighted the scale of mental health issues facing local people in Belfast to Paula Duarte Gaspar from the European Commission and Heidi-Beth Hudson from the office of NI Executive.
“Areas hit hard by the legacy of the conflict like North Belfast are reporting high levels of mental health issues. These same areas experienced high degrees of social deprivation and poverty – two factors we know exacerbate the mental health impact of conflict.
“I would like to thank the MEP for giving me and others the opportunity to speak on this very important subject and organising such a worthwhile programme of engagements.
“This event brought together those working across Ireland on mental health with academics and policy makers at European level to share best practice. Knowing what works for groups working right across the breadth of Ireland and finding out what new initiatives are underway is a key aspect for groups like us working in North Belfast and further afield.”
The delegation of mental health workers travelled to Brussels on June 3 2015 at the invitation of Sinn Fein MEP Liadh Ní Riada.