The legacy of the conflict is continuing to affect everyday lives particularly on mental health and wellbeing, a panel discussion in North Belfast heard.
Duncairn Community Partnership (DCP), which is supported by the International Fund for Ireland through its Peace Walls Programme, brought local residents together with a range of professionals and statutory bodies to discuss the health impact of those living closest to Peace Walls.
Neighbourhood segregation is a fundamental determinant of physical health, but literature on its effect on mental health is less clear. Panellists came together to discuss the importance of addressing this issue as part of the wider community plan to end physical barriers in the area.
A study undertaken by Queens University in 2016 highlighted that more than one in five adults who lived close to a Peace Wall in Northern Ireland were prescribed anti-depressants. In the first study of its kind, researchers examined health data for more than 1.3 million people aged 18-74 across the region.
Commenting at the event, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, Dr Adrian Johnston said:
“The main purpose of the Peace Walls Programme, which DCP is funded through, is to build community capacity and confidence in and between communities, aimed at reaching community agreement around barrier alteration or removal.
“The physical aspect of the barriers is only one part of this process and we need to address the long-standing health impact peace’s walls across NI have had on local residents. The event this evening highlighted the real life impacts people are dealing with every day and we are pleased DCP are taking the lead in not only engaging and identifying these issues but also actively working towards a solution”.
DCP was established to extend and expand working relationships across two of the most difficult and contentious interfaces in Northern Ireland. It has created a formal cross-community partnership between organisations in New Lodge/Newington/Tiger’s Bay/Mountcollyer, third party NGOs and established extensive links with statutory organisations working towards the removal of all obstacles to normal, peaceful relations in lower North Belfast.
The event, hosted by NICVA also heard from two participants of Limestone United who highlighted the positive role being part of this team has had on their lives. Part of the Football for Hope initiative, supported by the Irish Football Association (IFA), Limestone United is made up of young people from both communities at the Limestone Road interface.
Ciarán Shannon of Duncairn Community Partnership said:
“Identifying the issues is the first step and tonight’s discussion certainly shed light on the range of health-related issues residents living closest to these structures are dealing with every day. There has been some positive work and engagement in the New Lodge, Tigers Bay, Mountcollyer, Limestone Road and Newington interface community but more needs to be done.
“Having professionals, service providers and statutory bodies in the room to hear first-hand was very useful. We plan to put together a report on what was discussed alongside recommendations on how we can work with all of these stakeholders to address the issues”.
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