Relentless rise in male suicide sparks call for urgent action
More men die by suicide in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK, shocking new figures show.
Last year 305 people took their own lives here - an increase of eight from 2016 - with male suicides up from 221 in 2016 to 234.
There is now an urgent need for effective suicide prevention measures to be put in place to address the growing problem, according to the Samaritans.
The organisation's regional director Cindy O'Shea said the male suicide rate is deeply worrying.
"It is good to see the number of women taking their own lives in Northern Ireland is reducing," she said.
"However, it's concerning to see that suicide rates have increased, and this appears to be driven by a rise in male suicide.
"The male suicide rate here remains the highest in the UK.
"There needs to be effective suicide prevention measures put in place to address this."
The Samaritans appeal coincides with the publication of new official figures and the Christmas period, which can be a very lonely time for some.
The charity said that one in three calls to it on Christmas Day is from people who feel lonely and isolated, which is why its volunteers across all eight local branches are helping to keep the service running for those in need throughout the festive break, including on December 25.
Statistics show that there has been a rapid increase in the annual number of suicides since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago. In 1998, records reveal that 143 people took their own lives in Ireland, fewer than half of the number in 2016.
They also show that more people in Northern Ireland have died by their own hand since the signing of the Agreement than from violence during the Troubles.
Suicide rates here have also soared at a much faster rate than in Britain, according to a report by the Samaritans.
It explains that overall suicide rates in the UK have increased by 3.8% since 2014, with a 2% increase in England.
Whereas the number of deaths by suicide here has increased by 18.5% during the same period.
Male suicides are more common.
In 2016, 221 took their lives, compared with 76 women, while last year 234 men died by suicide compared to 71 women.
The charity responded to more than 400,000 calls for help during December 2017 by phone, email and text throughout the UK and Ireland.
Despite all the festivities, it said more than 11,000 of those calls for help and emotional support came on Christmas Day.
The Protect Life 2 strategy - a suicide prevention document - has been delayed because of the collapse of the Assembly at Stormont.
Anyone can contact the Samaritans at any time for free from any phone on 116 123. This number won't show up on your phone bill. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.samaritans.org to find details of your local branch.