Belfast Telegraph

'Drop-in' suicide centres mooted

Informal "drop-in" suicide centres should be established to target young men at risk, it has been claimed.

There has been a massive increase in suicides in Northern Ireland with men accounting for three quarters of victims, the Public Health Agency (PHA) said. Between 1999 and 2008 there was a 64% rise in people taking their own lives.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: "This research highlights the importance of building stronger emotional resilience and coping skills amongst young men, and of providing prevention services that they are more willing to access.

"It also underscores the fundamental importance of positive, close relationships with family and friends in protecting against suicide."

The study - Suicide: providing meaningful care - made several findings. It was undertaken by the University of Ulster, Queen's University and the University of Maine.

A total of 36 men aged 15-34 who had undertaken a serious suicide attempt on at least one occasion were interviewed.

Based on their responses, the study concluded that suicidal young men had unhelpful and unrealistic views of what it was to be a success. These contributed to low self-esteem, personal stress and ultimately, to their increased risk of suicide. It also claimed that suicidal young men also saw a prevention role for others who had tried to take their own life. They maintained they could find support and hope from such a peer group with opportunities to voice feelings in a safe forum.

Those interviewed also believed recovery was seen as hard work, involving gaining meaning in their lives, engaging in meaningful life, social and educational skills. This would help them successfully find their way through the challenges of life. These would also keep the young men occupied and so avoid exposure to excessive isolation.

Part of this, they believed, should be in non "mental health" contexts: e.g. sports clubs, schools, the workplace and community/self-help groups. In this regard, addressing the problem of young male suicide in Northern Ireland is not the sole remit of the Department of Health.

The research said there was a need for increased awareness of the problem. It added there was value in having more community-based informal drop-in suicide centres but these had to be available and offered in ways that were in line with young men's preferred ways of meeting.

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