Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Suicide prevention groups march on Stormont

World Suicide Prevention day was held on Monday (September 10) and hundreds of campaigners descended on, and ascended the hill of Stormont Estate to show polticians that they want more to be done to help prevent suicides in Northern Ireland.

There are approximately 300 suicides a year across Northern Ireland.

Over 200 young people attended the event at Stormont Building and after the representatives met with Assembly chairs the young people gathered in a marquee on the East lawn where a number of musical performances took place.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said on Monday that unemployment rates further affected those most vulnerable.

He said: "In 2010 and 2011, over 600 people took their own lives - this is a startlingly high figure."

He said factors which increased suicide rates, especially in the at-risk group, included alcohol and drugs misuse, educational under-achievement, being part of the justice system and mental illness.

"The executive is facing up to the challenge of reducing suicide rates," he said.

"In June 2012, I launched the Refreshed Protect Life Strategy which requires a greater commitment from a number of government departments to reduce suicide rates and will mean much closer working arrangements to achieve the actions set out in the strategy.

"I also met with the Ministerial Co-ordination Group on Suicide in June to discuss the refreshed Protect Life Strategy, the Terms of Reference and the actions that now need to be taken across government to reduce suicide rates in Northern Ireland."

North Down DUP MLA Gordon Dunne said: "'It is crucial that on a day like this we take time to reflect and remember all those victims of suicide, and their families who are left behind. Few could begin to imagine the pain left behind on families and friends of those who very sadly have taken their own lives.

"When the World Health Organisation states that 'almost three thousand people commit suicide daily' with about 300 people in Northern Ireland every year, it highlights that there is a very real problem which exists and these figures show the need that surely more can be done to tackle this problem to help reduce these figures.

"The evidence which highlights the stark reality of how suicide rates have risen over the last forty years is very alarming," he added.

Alliance Health spokesperson Kieran McCarthy MLA supported the Assembly motion calling for an integrated strategy to assist the community and voluntary sectors in preventing suicide.

"Suicide impacts upon many families across Northern Ireland and World Suicide Prevention Day reminds us what a major public health issue it is," he said. "News today that people in deprived areas are three times more likely to take their lives demonstrates the need for continued resources to tackle suicide prevention."

"The community and voluntary sectors are working hard to address the issue of suicide, but it is critical that an integrated strategy is created to ensure everything possible is done to address this devastating issue.

"This morning people across Belfast took place in a special event, walking from the darkness of the early morning into the dawn. Hopefully we all will be able to leave the darkness behind and move into a bright new dawn where suicide will be a thing of the past."

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