A new counselling service is to open in east Belfast on Friday due to “massively increased demand”.
One fifth of all the charity’s referrals for counselling came from east Belfast, statistics for last year show.
And Assembly figures show deprivation, mental health issues and suicide remain big problems in east Belfast.
An Assembly Health Committee heard recently that 200 people died by suicide in Northern Ireland in a nine-month period in 2012.
Karen Collins, Chief Executive of New Life Counselling, said growing deprivation and the recession are two of the issues that have contributed to a rise in the demand for services.
“As with every inner city area, East Belfast has significant issues of poverty and unemployment, with the associated mental health issues being just as severe,” she said.
“Since July 2011 New Life Counselling has been delivering much needed services in East Belfast through the use of facilities in the Holywood Arches Practice and in the time we have seen a dramatic increase in the level of referrals for counselling support.
“By 2012 20% of all the charity’s referrals for counselling came from East Belfast and New Life Counselling decided that the only way of keeping up with demand was to open new offices in the area.”
New Life Counselling will now operate from the iconic new Skainos building on the Newtownards Road, with 83 people currently on the organisation’s waiting list.
One in four people in Northern Ireland are affected by mental health problems and it costs £1,680 per head to deal with the impact of those.
East Belfast MLAs Sammy Douglas of the DUP and Chris Lyttle of the Alliance party said
Mr Douglas said: “With 1 in every 4 people affected by a mental health problem in Northern Ireland it’s great to see a team with a proven track record providing this much needed resource in East Belfast. Since its inception in 1993 New Life Counselling has provided an excellent dedicated service right across the community and I look forward to working in partnership with them to deliver this excellent service throughout the constituency.”
Mr Lyttle added: “New Life Counselling provides an invaluable service to help people with mental ill-health across Northern Ireland and I welcome this much needed increase in provision for East Belfast.
“I am acutely aware of the urgent need for additional counselling resources in East Belfast and I know that New Life Counselling will work with other organisations to ensure we deliver access to a range of services to achieving our aim of good mental health for all people in our community.
The project is part funded by Big Lottery’s Awards For All scheme, the Public Health Agency and Bombardier’s Charitable Foundation.
Visit www.newlifecounselling.net for more information.