MLAs urged to get back to work to battle suicide crisis
A mental health consultant has called on political leaders to restore the Assembly to tackle the rising suicide rate.
Vivian McKinnon, regional co-ordinator of Smart Recovery, an organisation providing assistance to individuals seeking help for addictions, called on politicians to ensure funding reaches those in crisis.
Ms McKinnon says since the collapse of the Assembly two years ago there has been a slow decay in public services, with those most vulnerable being hit hardest.
"In the first 18 months without our devolved government, 463 people in Northern Ireland died by suicide," she said.
Over the past 20 years, suicide rates here have substantially increased, particularly among men, and mental illness is the largest cause of ill health and disability across the region, higher than any other part of the UK.
A study by Ulster University, commissioned by the Public Health Agency, noted there was a strong association between substance abuse and suicide, with half of those who died having made previous attempts or been recorded as having suicidal thoughts, and 40% had been prescribed antidepressants.
Campaigners say that Northern Ireland's health service is already under pressure from lack of funding and further cuts, and that those who are in need of support for addictions and mental health problems are being left without adequate treatment and support.
"Medicating the symptoms does not provide a long-term solution," Ms McKinnon added.