Help always available, even in darkest times
Suicide is something which has touched many people in Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately Northern Ireland's suicide rate has been the highest in the UK for three years in a row now.
Like many others, my family has been touched by suicide and the community I live in has experienced the pain of someone who has felt their only option was to take their own life.
Dealing with the aftermath of suicide is hugely painful. Those left behind ask questions of themselves. Was it something I said or done, or indeed was it something I didn't say or do? How did I miss the signs? Why did they not confide in me?
"If only" will be a regular preface when discussing what happened, but underlying will be the finality of loss and the immense pain in that it may well have been avoidable, often leaving innocent loved ones carrying a burden of guilt.
We must send out the message that no matter how dark it may seem help is always available and that every life is valuable. No one should ever feel they are worthless or their life does not matter.
Whilst people of all ages and backgrounds may take their own lives, the figures are particularly acute for young men and for those in urban, particularly working class areas.
The Executive is putting £7m per year into suicide prevention. Like so many other issues extra funding would obviously be desirable, but there are also many cases where someone takes their own life without any previous indicators that might have allowed intervention.
There is a particular challenge in these cases as to how we can identify someone who may be at risk of suicide when there appear to be no prior indicators.
The work of suicide prevention organisations is absolutely invaluable, not only to those who do reach out for help, but I know of how they have been able to help families coping with the aftermath of a loved one who has taken the decision to end their own life.
For many years suicide was something that simply was not talked about, and one of the steps forward we are taking as a society is simply that we are talking about this problem and not allowing the stigma which previously may have been associated with suicide to remain.