Heartbreaking toll of 297 suicides in one year in Northern Ireland
New official statistics show nearly six people died by suicide in Northern Ireland every week in 2016.
Figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) show 297 people were recorded as having died by suicide last year.
This was a decrease on the number for 2015, when 318 suicides were recorded in Northern Ireland - the highest number since records began in 1970.
Despite this, it is still one of the highest recorded figures of recent years.
In 2014, 268 deaths by suicide were recorded in Northern Ireland, with 303 deaths in 2013.
Of the deaths in 2016, 221 males took their own lives compared to 76 females, meaning men accounted for 74% of all deaths.
In keeping with the rest of the United Kingdom, suicides in Northern Ireland are recorded as either 'intentional self-harm' or 'event of undetermined intent'.
The figures also break down by age, and show the group suicide is most prevalent in are those aged 25 to 34, with 71 deaths recorded.
The number of suicides for the other age categories were as follows:
- 10 to 14 - 1
- 15 to 24 - 50
- 25 to 34 - 71
- 35 to 44 - 49
- 45 to 54 - 64
- 55 to 64 - 37
- 65 to 74 - 17
- 75 to 84 - 8
According to investigative website The Detail, the final figures contradict quarterly reports issued by NISRA for 2016 - which showed 305 deaths by suicide, a figure eight higher than the final number.
It was also found there had been 164 deaths by suicide recorded in the first six months of this year.
Speaking to the publication, professor of mental health sciences at Ulster University Siobhan O'Neill said: "I am shocked that the suicide death numbers are not really going down. They vary slightly year on year, but there is no downward trend. The trend in the rest of the UK is downwards and in Ireland it is stabilising.
"We need a suicide prevention strategy as a matter of urgency but we don’t have a government to sign off on it."
Responding to the figures the SDLP's Mark H Durkan said the figures made for "sobering reading".
"The issues that have divided parties and politicians pale into insignificance next to this massive problem that affects all of our communities. There must be cross party unity on this issue," he said.
"The failure to agree and implement a new suicide prevention strategy is a damning indictment of our politics. How can we credibly tell people in despair to seek help if we aren’t providing enough support ourselves?"
If you, or anyone close to you, is affected by any issues in this article, please contact the Samaritans free on 116123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000.
Belfast Telegraph Digital