NI: Ford launches mental health guide for justice professionals

Justice Minister David Ford
Justice Minister David Ford

Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister David Ford has launched a new guide to help people with mental or emotional ill-health to access fair justice.

Mental Health & Wellbeing and Personality Disorders – a guide for criminal justice professionals was commissioned by the Department of Justice and developed by local mental health charity MindWise.

Mr Ford, speaking at the official opening of the charity’s new Belfast premises, said: “In the course of their work, criminal justice professionals regularly come into contact with children, young people and adults with a variety of mental health issues. For someone vulnerable due to mental or emotional ill health, contact with the criminal justice system can be a further source of anxiety and distress.

“I want to ensure access to justice for all and to protect the welfare of everyone we come into contact with. This means ensuring that those who need extra support receive it. This is why, in partnership with MindWise, my Department has developed this new guide to improve awareness of mental health issues among criminal justice professionals and to provide some practical advice on recognising, working with, and supporting people who are experiencing mental health distress.

“Everyone working in the criminal justice sphere can play a role in supporting people with mental health issues, by treating them with respect and consideration, ensuring they are treated fairly in criminal justice processes, and helping to connect them with the care they need.”

Mr Ford also acknowledged the expertise of MindWise staff and volunteers, whose work includes providing services on behalf of the Department to juveniles and mentally vulnerable adults in custody.

He said: “The MindWise team has provided an invaluable service over the last seven years since the inception of the Northern Ireland Appropriate Adult Scheme.

“As they enter this new chapter with the opening of their new premises I wish them every success for the future. I have no doubt they will continue to provide support to those with complex mental health conditions when they need it most.”

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