Mental Health Champion warns that the cost of living crisis is also a suicidal crisis

The cost of living crisis is causing a mental health crisis worse than that of the pandemic, Northern Ireland's Mental Health Champion has warned and that the economic crisis is leading to an increase in those who are in suicidal distress.

Siobhan O'Neill made the comments as she listened to stories from two foodbanks in Belfast and said poverty is putting increased pressure on many people in Northern Ireland, which leads to a cycle of trauma that can result in mental health issues and substance abuse.

Remarking that it's "horrendous" to see so many food banks here in 2022, she said the compassion shown by the groups running them is essential for helping others meet their basic needs. However, Professor O'Neill said it's not a substitute for the strong political leadership we need.

A long-term solution is needed to address the cost of living crisis here to reduce the mental health impact, as one-off payments are not enough.

"Every one of us is only a pay packet away from being left destitute," Professor O'Neill told Belfast Live.

"I think the issue is we get a short term reaction, a payment, when what we actually need is a systemic change to reduce inequality in Northern Ireland. We need political leadership, we need an anti-poverty strategy that actually works.

"We need this from the top down, just giving people bits and pieces here and there is not going to change the systems that have led us to this situation. That change can happen.

"The cost of living crisis is putting significant pressure on people and it's affecting their mental health. It's actually driving people to a suicidal crisis, where they see no hope for the future and no alternative to suicide.

"They're destitute, they can't feed their families, they feel like failures - that's a very toxic combination that can lead people to suicidal crisis. The work we're seeing here [at Storehouse] is suicide prevention work as well as mental health work."

Watch Professor O'Neill speak to UTV below: 


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