Belfast Telegraph

Professor calls for suicide prevention priority as Northern Ireland deaths double in 20 years

By Staff Reporter

It has been heartbreaking to see the number of suicides in Northern Ireland more than double over the last 20 years, a leading researcher has said.

Professor Rory O'Connor yesterday called for suicide prevention to be made a national priority in the province.

The suicide researcher and academic from Northern Ireland was speaking as the Samaritans launched the charity's annual Impact Report at Stormont.

"In the mid-1990s when I started researching suicide in Belfast, about 150 people died by suicide each year in Northern Ireland," Mr O'Connor said.

"It is heartbreaking to see the number of deaths more than double since, to 318 in 2015.

"Suicide prevention has to be a national priority.

"So much more needs to be done to prevent suicide, the number one killer of young and middle-aged men in the UK."

Mr O'Connor also launched the latest International Handbook of Suicide Prevention, which he edited with Jane Pirkis, University of Melbourne.

"I am particularly pleased to launch the Handbook in Northern Ireland, as it is the most comprehensive handbook yet on suicide prevention, containing the latest evidence from 110 of the world's leading experts, about what works to prevent suicide," said Mr O'Connor.

Eighteen people a day die by suicide in the UK and Ireland but, according to a Samaritans survey, one in six people (17.3%) see it as a taboo subject.

The charity is calling for more openness about suicide, in order to prevent people taking their own lives.

Deirdre Toner, Samaritans Executive Director for Ireland, said: "People who are struggling can feel isolated and alone.

"They often want to talk about their suicidal feelings, but don't know how to, or fear they will be judged.

"Talking through your feelings with someone else can make all the difference."

"More than 6,000 people die by suicide every year in the UK alone. If you are less well off, and male, you are at greater risk of suicide. When you bottle things up, you can start to feel trapped.

"Talking things through can help you find a way forward.

"It's not always about fixing a problem - sometimes it's simply about sharing it. Samaritans' volunteers will always listen and never judge."

  • The Samaritans can be contacted on tel: 116 123, or via email to

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