Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Tackle prejudice to lower suicide toll, MPs urged

A suicide prevention worker has called on politicians to build a more tolerant and inclusive society as the best contribution to reducing our spiralling suicide rates.

Jim Weir, director of Youth Services, at FASA (Forum for Action on Substance Abuse and Suicide Awareness), made his comments after a DUP-led debate on suicide in Westminster.

He said it was wrong to single out the internet as a reason for suicide. He targeted bigoted attitudes and an uncaring society as more significant problems.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said that his own North Belfast constituency now had the highest suicide rate in the UK, amounting to 25.9 per 100,000 people, and that around 300 people in Northern Ireland die annually by suicide.

Rev William McCrea put much of the blame on the internet, citing cyber bullying and websites providing "explicit information on suicide methods, or have been used to facilitate suicide pacts".

Mr Weir agreed that such sites should be discouraged, but added: "The internet can be a safe place to communicate without fear. It can be a place where people can discuss their issues anonymously in chat rooms."

He stated: "The best thing the politicians can do to help reduce suicide and the depression which leads to it is try to break down bigotry and division in society and promote diversity."

He said groups at risk because of bigoted attitudes included "the LGBT (lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender) community, religious groups and the Polish".

Mr Weir added: "Everyone is free to believe as they choose but problems arise when we become prejudiced against others."

Figures released in 2006 found 27.1% of gay men had attempted suicide and 71% had considered it.

John O'Doherty of the Rainbow Project, an LGBT advocacy group, urged politicians to combat homophobic attitudes.

Background

The DUP led a debate on suicide awareness in the House of Commons. MPs revealed that in Northern Ireland 300 people take their own lives annually, double the figure of 15 years ago. North Belfast is the UK suicide black spot with the highest figures. It emerged that suicide rates had also risen across the UK by 7.6% in 2011.

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