Regional Suicide-Prevention Help line goes live
In a conversation with Gerry Adams the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has told the Sinn Fein west Belfast MP MLA that the regional suicide prevention Help Line is going live today. The Help Line will cost £3 and a half million to run per annum.
Welcoming this news Mr Adams said:
"The Help Line was piloted in north and west Belfast and was successful in helping many at risk. The decision to extend it across the north is welcome."
The west Belfast MP also spoke to the Minister about widespread concerns among suicide prevention support groups over the increasing number of suicides that have taken place in recent years, and the level and allocation of funding to the community services that provide a lifeline for those at risk.
Speaking after his conversation with the Minister Gerry Adams said;
"There is a general concern among bereaved families and suicide prevention groups at the level of available funding and the likely funding allocation for this issue in the year ahead.
"There is also some anxiety that responsibility for the suicide prevention strategy may be shifted over to the new Mental Health Board which does not have a dedicated focus on suicide prevention and will not have the voice of the community and family within the Board.
"In particular, the disproportionate rate of suicide in west and north Belfast still requires additional resources for community based programmes."
The Sinn Fein MP also expressed concern at the failure of many GPs to take up GP training on this issue. A significant amount of the resources ringfenced for suicide prevention was set aside for this purpose. More information is required on how this money has been used.
"Recent figures have revealed that only 120 doctors in the eastern Board area, out of 468 have taken up the suicide prevention courses. The Department needs to do more to encourage doctors to avail of the training scheme that was established in February 2007."
However, Mr. Adams said an urgent priority for the Minister is the possible closure of two projects servicing the Shankill area. One of the projects, Reaching Across to Reduce your Risk of Suicide and Self-Harm - RAYs - a suicide prevention project on the Shankill, and a self-harm team for north and west Belfast based at the Mater hospital, are in danger of being wound up because their funding is due to run out at the end March 2008.
Mr. Adams and the Minister have agreed to meet shortly for further discussions on these important issues.