NEVER has there been such a demand for psychiatric services locally with so little resources available.
The issue of mental health in this area is sadly neglected by our politicians, who would like to bury our local services in Coleraine, as if it were bad news as they do not want a psychiatric clinic in their backyard.
However their alternative will be more costly in the long run.
This would include shutting down the Ross Thompson Unit at Causeway Hospital Coleraine, in order to build a massive ward at Holywell in Antrim.
This in my view would be disastrous for a huge number of patients and their families in the Causeway area, as well as the jobs and services that would have to move to Antrim.
It would mean that patients and their families would have to travel 50 miles for treatment. Many psychiatric patients are given leave during their treatment to travel home.
This would mean a 100 mile round trip for anyone in Coleraine area, leave given is usually four hours making such a trip impossible. Also Holywell is situated some distance from Antrim town itself, making trvel to and from it even more difficult.
I have recently been a patient at the Ross Thompson Unit and unlike many of our politicians, journalists and policy makers, I can attest that it is very much fit for purpose.
It provided a very high level of psychiatric care. I would consider it to be one of the best units I have been treated in, having had long stays in many psychiatric units in London and Northern Ireland over the 35 years of my condition.
Remember too that one in four and quickly rising to one in three of us will fall ill with a mental illness at some stage of our lifetime.
Yet in Coleraine we have no dedicated mental health charity. Despite a plethora of charity shops in the town, not one for a mental health charity.
One in three gay men and, drastically, one in two lesbian women take ill with mental illness in their lifetime.
This must be a societal phenomena and an indication of the high levels of homophobia that exist in the province.
Whilst we are told that 70% of us will survive cancer, and a similar success rate for heart disease, sadly this is not true fior those suffering with mental illness.
I learnt in my Masters dissertation as the homicide rate goes up (as during the Troubles), the suicide rate goes down.
And now with the advent of peace here the rate of homicides has decreased and suicide rates have soared. However suicide unlike homicide is a hidden statistic and not given as a cause of death.
It is the measure of the civility of a civilisation as to how it treats its most vunerable people.
THE Northern Trust currently has no plans to close the Ross Thompson Unit in Causeway Hospital.
As part of the planning for new mental health in patient facilities we are however reviewing how we will provide this care in the future.
This will be informed by the final outcome from the consultation process on Transforming Your Care - Vision to Action.
This consultation document proposes six inpatient acute mental health units for those aged 18+ in Northern Ireland with one of the six units being located in the Northern area.
Transforming Your Care - Vision to Action can be found on the website of the Health and Social Care Board.