Cases of death by suicide have soared by almost 100% in Northern Ireland in less than 15 years, the Health Minister has said.
Edwin Poots told the Assembly that from 1997, the year before the Good Friday Agreement, to 2011, there had been an average of 5.9 deaths per 100,000 of the population. “More recently, that has risen to over 11 deaths. That is |almost a 100% increase in the rate of suicide over the past 12 to 14 years, and we should, rightly, be concerned about that,” he said.
In a debate sparked by nine suspected suicides in the south Antrim area since April last year, the DUP minister argued: “We need to be of the view that one suicide is one suicide too many.”
His comments came as the Men’s Health Forum Ireland project also concluded an estimated 165 teens and young men took their own lives in the Republic in 2011, compared to 72 suspected suicides in the province. Overall, it showed about 300 people in Northern Ireland die by suicide every year, with men between 18 and 54 living in deprived areas |facing the greatest risk. Males are three times more likely to die by suicide than females.
Mr Poots said: “Although I front the Health Department, every other minister has a role to play in ensuring that Northern Ireland's public have better health. Certainly, on suicide issues, there is considerable help that I can receive from other departments that will save lives.
“We need to work closely with, develop and co-ordinate such groups so that we can maximise the number of well-meaning and good-intentioned people out there who can help us to drive down the scourge of suicide in our society.”
Mr Poots’ department has invested more than £32m over the last six years in suicide prevention.
Some 72 teens and young men took their own lives in Northern Ireland in 2011, while 165 died by suicide in the Republic. Suicide increased by 64% in Northern Ireland between 1999 and 2008. In 2010, 77% of all suicides were men, 40.5% were in the age group 15-34 and 42% were in the age group 35-54.