Suicide prevention cash ring-fenced
Funding for suicide prevention programmes in Northern Ireland will be ring-fenced, the Health Minister has pledged.
Noting the link between deprivation and people taking their own lives, Edwin Poots said the issue presented a complex challenge for all society.
After visiting a project in west Belfast, one of the areas particularly blighted by the problem, Mr Poots said that frontline services aimed at tackling suicide would not be affected by any future cutbacks in his department.
"I believe frontline preventative services that respond promptly and effectively when people are suicidal remain essential and I have therefore given a commitment to protect suicide prevention funding," he said.
The minister was visiting the Suicide Awareness and Support Group.
"Suicide is an issue that is not going to go away," he said. "It presents a complex and deeply concerning challenge for all sectors of our society.
"Only a few days into office as Health Minister, I attended a meeting of the regional Suicide Strategy Implementation Body, which advises the Department on the implementation of the local suicide prevention strategy, Protect Life - A Shared Vision.
"I wanted to find out who in our society is most at risk; the reasons why some people take a decision to end their lives and what further actions we all need to take to prevent suicide.
"I know that there has been a steady upward trend in these tragic deaths despite strenuous suicide efforts by statutory, community and voluntary sector organisations such as the Suicide Awareness and Support Group."
The minister added: "Suicide is inextricably linked with deprivation. Rates are twice as high in deprived areas and the gap continues to widen."