Experts in mental health gathered for a major conference on Monday to thrash out a plan to tackle the scourge of mental illness and suicide.
Welcoming the event, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: “There is a lot of work going on across Northern Ireland to tackle the incidence and heartbreak of suicide in our society. Statutory agencies, voluntary and community organisations, local government and faith groups are all involved in this essential work.
“It is therefore vital that good practice is highlighted and shared among all of those striving to reduce suicide. Coherent and joined-up action across all sectors is undoubtedly the most effective approach.”
Dr Eddie Rooney, chief executive of the Public Health Agency (PHA), which organised the conference, said promoting mental health and suicide prevention was a priority, not only for the statutory bodies, but also for “every local community”.
“We are working in partnership with community, voluntary and statutory organisations and investing nearly £7m in this work, this year alone,” he said.
“With our community and voluntary colleagues, we are assisting people to seek help by funding immediate services for those in distress — the Lifeline 24/7 helpline, on 0808 808 8000, offers counselling and services for those in crisis or concerned about others. We are also working with families, through the Families Voices Forum, a Northern Ireland-wide group that is hearing the voices, sharing the interests and experiences and meeting the needs of those who have experienced the loss of a loved one through suicide.”
Dr Rooney said good mental health was “vital” for a full and active life, and that the Public Health Agency would continue to work with others “to build resilience and positive mental health among our young people and in the wider community to reduce the loss of so many lives though suicide”.
The conference, Creating Sustainable Communities to Promote Mental Wellbeing and Reduce Suicides, at Mossley Mill, Newtownabbey, was organised by the PHA’s Northern Area Promoting Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Steering Group, which is helping to implement the 2006-2011 action plan Protect Life.
Delegates from community and voluntary organisations, councils, the youth sector and mental health services heard about good practice developed in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT) area.
Topics included raising awareness and education; early recognition and intervention; appropriate and accessible services and support; work during and after crises.
If you or someone you know needs confidential support services and advice, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a free helpline service available 24/7. You can also access the website: www.lifelinehelpline.info
Other sources of support include:
Samaritans — 08457 909090
Barnardo’s Children and Young People Bereaved by Suicide Support Project — Tel: 07796 148549.