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Suicide prevention has to be a priority

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 02/08/2016

The suicide of Jonny Little, which we report in today's Belfast Telegraph, is a reminder of a shocking state of affairs that is so prevalent here. Picture posed by model
The suicide of Jonny Little, which we report in today's Belfast Telegraph, is a reminder of a shocking state of affairs that is so prevalent here. Picture posed by model

The suicide of Jonny Little, which we report in today's Belfast Telegraph, is a reminder of a shocking state of affairs that is so prevalent here.

On average, around six people here take their own lives each week, and it is difficult to know how to counter this dark litany of tragedy.

The latest death brings home to us the human aspects of suicide.

Jonny was the fourth member of Woodvale Football Club to have taken his own life over the past six years.

His death is an unspeakable blow to his friends and family, but also to a much wider circle including members of Woodvale FC and other clubs.

For those who are left to mourn and to wonder why this happened, there are no simple explanations.

Jonny was enjoying a family occasion only hours before his death. It is not hard to imagine the deep grief of his family, whose happiness was so unexpectedly and swiftly turned into unimaginable grief.

Overall, the statistics confirm that there is a virtual epidemic of suicide in Northern Ireland. It affects families regardless of religious, social or community backgrounds.

There was a time when such deaths were attributed partly to the effects of the Troubles, but the hard reality is that many of the young people taking their lives today were not even born when the conflict was raging. Overall, we need more research into why so many people feel that they have no future, or a future that is worth living.

Do they have a deep sense of social deprivation, or are they feeling alienated in an increasingly atomised culture? Does the highly prevalent social media play a part, and if so, what exactly is that part? Does it create an impression that everyone else is having a good time, thus adding to the misery of those whose lives are so vulnerable?

It is important to remember, however, that much good work is being carried out on the ground by groups such as PIPS, the Niamh Foundation and a number of others, to deal with the traumatic challenges of a suicide culture.

The latest developments again highlight the fact that this problem needs the full attention of everyone at Stormont, both in trying to establish the factors which lead to such a high suicide rate, and in developing effective steps which will prevent yet more of our young people from taking such a drastic and tragic step, from which there is no way back.

Belfast Telegraph

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