Belfast Telegraph

Suicide prevention must be a priority

Editor's Viewpoint

In today's newspaper we carry a report on the appalling bereavements through suicides which have befallen Patricia and Eddie Ferrin and the wider family.

Their son Stephen (31) had been missing last week, but was later found after an appeal. Tragically, he was discovered dead at his home in north Belfast on Saturday.

It is the fourth tragedy to have affected the family in recent years. Stephen's brothers, Kieran (24) and Niall (19), died through suicide, as well as their cousin Christopher, who was only 19.

Equally horrific is the fact that in recent years Stephen also lost at least five close friends to suicide.

It is hard to understand why there is such a high suicide rate, and predominately among younger men. Is it possible that there is a dark legacy from the Troubles, of which many of these young people have limited or no direct experience, but which still plays some part in the continuing scourge of self-harm and suicide?

One of the obvious questions amidst this self-inflicted carnage is to ask whether or not the State cares enough for the emotionally and mentally vulnerable?

Why, for example, does it seem to be the groups founded by individuals with family experience of suicide which set the pace in this particularly challenging health and social care sector?

Our thoughts are with Eddie and Patricia Ferrin and their family at this time of suffering and of unimaginable loss.

The focus for the caring professions should not be the glib management-speak about "multi-agency approaches", which could mean anything, and often does. What is required is effective action.

People who take their own lives seem to live in a dark world where it is hard to reach out to them in their time of greatest need. This is all the more difficult to understand when suicide is so prevalent among young men.

We all need to be as understanding as we can, and also to encourage all those people who are campaigning for better care for those at risk. Sadly, it is often the people most closely affected who are most deeply motivated to do something about the widespread suicides which bring heartbreak to homes and which so blight our society.

If you, or anyone close to you, is affected by any issues in this article, please contact the Samaritans on 0845 790 9090 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000.

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