Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

City sees 15 suspected suicides

Edwin Poots said suicide rates are twice as high in deprived areas
Edwin Poots said suicide rates are twice as high in deprived areas

Fifteen people have died from suspected suicide attempts in Belfast since July.

The figures came as the Department of Health said that almost 500 patients attended hospital emergency departments in the city with deliberate self-harm earlier this year.

Suicide rates are twice as high in deprived areas and the gap continues to widen, minister Edwin Poots has warned.

Some support workers face budget cuts and lack of resources, Sharon Quinn from the Lighthouse support charity said, but added they were working tirelessly.

"It does hinder the work that could be done in terms of employing staff, whom you would like to have available to provide a constant response but it is not always possible," the office manager said.

A 24-hour free telephone support line is funded by the department. The department provides around £7 million annually for suicide prevention.

There has been a notable increase in the tally of deaths over recent years and Ms Quinn blamed it on socio-economic and individual factors. There has also been a problem with copycat suicides but there are plans in place to try to prevent that from happening.

The latest details, 15 cases since July, were revealed by Mr Poots following a question from Sinn Fein assembly member Sue Ramsey.

Mr Poots said: "Sadly, this is reflective of trends experienced over the last five years and work, therefore, is ongoing to address the high levels of suicide in areas of Belfast. This includes awareness raising, promotion of help-seeking behaviour, bereavement support, training for 'gatekeepers', and provision of counselling and crisis support."

According to the minister, during the quarter ending June 30 2012, 467 people were presented with deliberate self harm at emergency care departments in the Belfast health trust. Official statistics show there were 138 suicides in 1997 for the whole of Northern Ireland. In 2011 there were 289, with 74 recorded in Belfast. The highest tally was in 2010 when 313 were registered.

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