The Western Trust is recruiting staff for two talking therapy hubs to try to wean Londonderry and the authority’s southern jurisdiction off anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication.
Former Health Minister Simon Hamilton confirmed the Trust is setting up the hubs, which will offer counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, group therapy and other alternatives to drugs treatments for people suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.
Londonderry has traditionally posted high rates of anti-depressant usage.
For example, the use of prescription treatments for depression in the old Western Health and Social Services Board (WHSSB) was higher than anywhere else on either side of the border in 2006/7.
High rates of prescription drugs use have persisted.
Health experts suggest people suffering from stress, anxiety or mild depression are often prescribed anti-depressants because talking therapies are not readily available.
Now the Health Minister has confirmed concrete steps are being taken to address this.
Mr Hamilton told East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden: “The Western Trust is currently recruiting staff for the Primary Care Talking Therapy Hubs in both its northern and southern sectors.”
Earlier he confirmed that £1.4m had been earmarked for talking therapy centres throughout Northern Ireland.
“The Health and Social Care Board is at the start of a five year plan to establish Primary Care Talking Therapies Hubs across each Trust area.
“The Hubs will focus on providing a range of psychological therapies (such as counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and psychotherapy) and lifestyle support for people who are experiencing common mental health problems.
“The Hubs are being developed around General Practice and when fully developed will improve access to earlier support and care. An initial investment of £1.4m has been made to support the establishment of the Hubs, which will extend the range and scope of psychological therapies available across mental health services,” he said.
Mr Hamilton said a pilot in West Belfast, which is an area with high levels of usage similar to Londonderry, has been considered a success.
“All other Trusts are in the process of applying the lessons learned from this pilot in order to bring these benefits to all parts of Northern Ireland. It is intended to strengthen the links between these developing Primary Care Talking Therapy Hubs and existing Family Support Hubs, which will create real opportunities to strengthen both family and community-based approaches to good mental health and wellbeing.”