The East Belfast MLA was speaking during a debate in the Assembly on counselling services in the area. Mr Lyttle brought up stark figures that he said showed there was a dire need for more resources to be given to organisations working to improve the emotional well-being of local people.
“East Belfast has the third highest hospital admissions for self-harm, the fourth highest amount of anti-depressant drugs dispensed and the joint-second highest suicide rate of any constituency in Northern Ireland. There are also approximately 1,000 patients with a mental illness on the GP register in East Belfast.
“There appears to be a lack of available resources to cope with the situation and the minister for health acknowledged funding for this area of provision in Northern Ireland has not kept pace with Britain.
“The charity New Life Counselling, despite being based in North Belfast, received a total of 120 referrals from 16 separate East Belfast GPs between April 2011 and March 2012. Many East Belfast organisations can bear testimony to this increasing demand.
“This shows the serious need for high-quality psychological therapy services to be co-ordinated across East Belfast. Provision must be multi-agency, and the health service and the voluntary and community sector must have an opportunity to work together.”
Mr Lyttle said groups getting support would prevent “major crises” from developing further down the line.
“There are many voluntary and community-based groups across East Belfast working in the most difficult of circumstances with limited resources. Adequate support for their work would not only alleviate the pain and distress of those suffering and their loved ones but would prevent emergencies from occurring.
“Support should be given to enable the health service and community and voluntary groups to work together to provide good communication, referral and supervision to ensure people are aware of the range of services available at this challenging time.”