Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

It's good to talk about suicide awareness

It affects thousands of people in Northern Ireland every year.

When someone takes their own life, the utter devastation is not just felt by family, friends and loved-ones; it ripples across the community.

In recent months, the spotlight has again been shone on the problem of suicide after the tragic deaths of two 13-year-old children in west Belfast and athlete Karen Cromie.

But the problem is far-reaching. According to the Public Health Agency (PHA), between 1999 and 2008 rates of suicide in Northern Ireland increased by 64%.

By 2008 - the latest year for which a reliable breakdown of the statistics is available - 77% of suicides were male, but the proportion aged between 15 and 34 had risen to 72%. But there are people determined to try and tackle the problem.

This week, suicide awareness charity PIPS, based in Belfast, launched a new DVD which aims to stem the rising number of young people taking their own lives.

The DVD - part of the charity's Mind Your Mate programme - was made in partnership with New Lodge Youth Club, featuring young people from north Belfast - many of them directly affected by suicide.

Philip McTaggart, director of PIPS, said the message they are trying to get across to young people is that it's okay for you to talk to friends about any problems they are having.

"It is important that young people can recognise signs in their friends that could signal that there is something worrying them, that they may have a problem," said Philip.

"It's not about keeping a secret, or not keeping a secret; it's about saving someone's life. So much of our young people's communication nowadays is non-verbal - texting, Facebook, chatrooms - and they might not always pick up the signs.

"They need to ask the questions 'Are you okay? Do you want to talk?' One small gesture can save a life."

One youth worker from the New Lodge area, Mary Madine, said that on the DVD young people speak honestly and openly about how they have coped with problems or with the loss of a relative or friend through suicide.

"Suicide and self-harm is an issue that does not discriminate. It is an issue for everyone - an issue that touches entire families and entire communities."

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