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Gerry Adams leads call over bid to tackle suicide epidemic

By Patrice Dougan

Published 21/10/2010

More needs to be done to tackle Northern Ireland’s suicide epidemic, groups said yesterday after it was claimed 21 people have died through suicide in west Belfast since January this year.

At an emergency Press conference on the issue of suicide, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said more needed to be done to tackle the growing number of young people taking their own lives in his constituency.

The call came as a second suicide in west Belfast came to light yesterday morning.

An unnamed young man from the Lagmore area was found in a suspected suicide incident, just two days after boxing hopeful Liam McGuinness took his life.

The 19-year-old, also from Lagmore, killed himself hours after partying with Paddy Barnes and the rest of Northern Ireland’s Commonwealth boxing champions. It is thought to be the fourth suicide in the area over the past week.

Mr Adams, backed by suicide groups in the city, said it was the 21st such death since January.

The death toll is quickly catching up with last year, as provisional figures from the Department of Health show 26 suicides in west Belfast in 2009.

Mr Adams called for a review of mental health services in Northern Ireland.

“Despite all of the good work that has been done, particularly by those who come from families who have been bereaved, it clearly isn’t enough,” he said.

“I have spoken to the Minister [for Health] and he assured me he would ring fence whatever resources are available for suicide prevention strategies.

”More people die through suicide on this island than through car accidents,” he said.

“Look at the awareness and support we put into driving [safety initiatives], and then look at the level of profile there is for suicide.

“There needs to be a lot more information going out.”

Suicide awareness groups in the city supported Mr Adams’ call.

Philip McTaggart, from Belfast suicide group PIPS, said the health department “need to get their acts together — they are too slow and not reaching out to individuals”.

Mr McTaggart, whose 17-year-old son Philip took his own life in 2003, said the breakdown of tight-knit communities and the increase of communication through social networking sites was leaving young people lacking in key social skills.

“We need to tell young people that talking about how you feel doesn’t make you weak,” he said.

Mary Creaney, from Suicide Awareness and Support, said: “It’s about reaching out to those effected and telling them there is support available.”

For more information about suicide prevention or support, contact PIPS on 028 9075 5070, Suicide Awareness and Support Group on 028 9023 9967, Life Line on 0808 808 8000, or Samaritans on 028 9066 4422.

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