Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: As Stormont's politicians stand on their principles, report on suicides gathers dust and the vulnerable continue to die

Editor's Viewpoint

There is a chilling sentence in our feature today on the toll of suicide in Northern Ireland - it's the most tragic of ironies, that 20 years of peace could rob us of more lives than 30 years of war did.

The total is 4,500, around 1,000 more than the gunmen and bombers managed to slaughter.

Some of those who took their own lives may have been affected by the Troubles, but a significant number were young people, mainly young men, all too young to remember the violence. It may be another legacy issue, but the exact causes are likely to be much more multi-faceted than sometimes portrayed.

In her thought provoking article, Lyra McKee quotes a seldom mentioned fact. Around 70% of those who took their own lives had not approached any mental health service. Is that due entirely to the attitude of those who feel so desperate with their lot in life, but do not want to admit it to anyone? Do those who consider taking their own life feel even that thought is too much of a stigma to share?

Another reason may be the inability of mental health services to respond to the level of need in the community. It could be that those in need feel it is a waste of time to seek help. Yet that very simple act could literally be a life saver.

Lyra knows the cost of silence. She cites the example of two of her friends who took their own lives, never mentioning their problems to anyone. She feels she could have helped them understand that life could get better and that their deaths would only cause mental torture to those left behind.

But perhaps the most telling statistic is that it is the areas which suffered most during the Troubles which bear the brunt of the suicides.

We have failed the post-ceasefire generation by offering them little hope. Twenty years of peace have not provided them with a dividend that matters. A strategy document on suicides gathers dust at Stormont as politicians stand on their principles. While they do so, their most vulnerable constituents continue to die.

Belfast Telegraph

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