Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Suicide crisis needs an urgent response

During the 28 years of the Troubles in which terrorists of all hues deliberately tried to kill as many people as possible, the death toll reached around 3,600. In the 21 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, 4,500 people have taken their own life. File image posed by model
During the 28 years of the Troubles in which terrorists of all hues deliberately tried to kill as many people as possible, the death toll reached around 3,600. In the 21 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, 4,500 people have taken their own life. File image posed by model

Editor's Viewpoint

There is one statistic on suicides in Northern Ireland which should shock everyone to the core. During the 28 years of the Troubles in which terrorists of all hues deliberately tried to kill as many people as possible, the death toll reached around 3,600. In the 21 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, 4,500 people have taken their own life.

Currently there is a case of suicide practically every day of the year and the figures remain stubbornly consistent.

It is therefore self-evident that a long awaited action plan to tackle this epidemic, which has just been published, has not come a minute too soon. In fact, many people would say it is shamefully late.

Statistics can give us the scale of the problem. What they cannot do is convey the sadness and grief of those bereaved. Very often they are left wondering why a loved one - often, but now always, a young man - took their own life, and if they could have done something to intervene.

But suicide is such a multi-faceted problem.

It is 3.5 times more prevalent in areas of deprivation but it affects people from all walks of life.

Mark H Durkan, an SDLP MLA, lost a sister to suicide.

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Meanwhile, Jesy Nelson of pop group Little Mix has opened up about how internet trolls made her want to die.

Lyra McKee, the young journalist shot dead by a dissident republican earlier this year, wrote of how her contemporaries, the ceasefire babies, had wrestled with the problem.

They were constantly told that they were the lucky generation not to have known sectarian conflict, yet they felt they had not reaped any peace dividend in increased opportunities and progressive politics.

The new blueprint for tackling the problem of suicide promises a little more money and a more comprehensive inter-departmental and inter-agency approach.

Given the death toll there can be no denying that a huge effort is required even to reach the modest target of a 10% reduction in such deaths by 2024.

We have to admire the tenacity of civil servants in acting as proxy ministers and attempting to keep Northern Ireland ticking over, but they cannot be used as an excuse for our stay away politicians not taking up the reins of power again.

Politicians are best placed to make decisions and to reach down to street level. Saving lives should surely override all political disputes.

Belfast Telegraph

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