The recently published National Confidential Inquiry into Suicides and Homicides has highlighted the strong relationship between alcohol and suicide.
Health Minister Edwin Poots has responded by confirming that funding for suicide prevention will be safeguarded. This is a welcome reassurance, but what is the position on alcohol services?
Currently, the Health and Social Care Board are consulting on Tier 4, in-patient addiction units.
The indications from consultations are a closure of units or wards, with only three in-patient residential facilities as the preferred option to cover the region.
This will affect the addiction wards in Downshire, Holywell, St Luke's and the Tyrone and Fermanagh hospitals, and have implications for Cuan Mhuire in Newry, Carlisle House in Belfast and Northlands in Derry.
How can the minister exclaim such concern for alcohol-related suicides in June, then announce the closure of residential treatment units three months later?
There have been some specific drug-related initiatives over the past five years, and minimal additional investment in trust addiction services over the past 10 years regarding alcohol abuse. The Health Minister estimated that alcohol abuse costs £240m in health and social care annually. If Mr Poots wants to cut the rate of suicide, he must show commitment to developing alcohol services, community and residential, and not close in-patient units.
Mental Health Nurses' Association