Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Suicide- A Preventable Crisis- Remarks by Gerry Adams MP

24 September, 2007


Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chuir roimh achan duine anseo inniu. Tá mé
buíoch daoibh as a bheith linn.

Every day someone on this island takes their own life.

Is é seo rud milteanneacht.

Maybe as many as four others attempt to take their own lives.

In June 2005, Sinn Féin held an event in this room about suicide prevention.

Years before that we lobbied the British government to develop a
suicide prevention strategy.

Our message then as today is the same:

Suicide is a major crisis - but it is a preventable crisis.

Of course, there are a number of important differences between then and now.

Most importantly we now have local Ministers accountable to local people.

Two years ago there was no strategy for suicide prevention in the
six counties.

Now, because of the efforts of many people in this room there is a
strategy which is one year old this month.

Also, and most importantly, because of the efforts of many in this
room, there are people alive today who would otherwise be dead
through suicide.

The problem

It is generally accepted that the actual rate of suicide is higher
than the rate officially recorded.

In 2005, official records show that 645 people took their own lives
on this island.

In 2006, that figure increased again.

In the north 291 people died by suicide and in the south the
suicide rate was almost 500.

In other words, nearly 800 people took their own lives last year
across this island.

Many were young, and a high proportion were elderly.

It is also reported that 1 in every 5 people who go to their GP
have mental health needs. In west and north Belfast this is
reported to be 1 in 3.

Adults with mental health needs are being imprisoned in Maghaberry
because the legislation governing the sectioning of individuals
excludes those with Personality Disorders.

Roseanne Irvine from Turf Lodge, died by suicide in Maghaberry. Her
inquest, and excellent research done by the Human Rights
Commission, graphically revealed how the system failed her and
others.

Young people who come forward seeking help struggle to find their
way through the labyrinth of the Health system.

Young Danny McCartan, (whose parents are here today), was passed
from pillar to post through the case-files of four different health
agencies before taking his own life.

Is é seo rud milteanneacht fosta. Rud micheart. Agus caithfidh muid
ár ndicheall a dheanamh chun stad a chur ar an éagóir mór seo.

Progress?

'Protect Life - a Shared Vision' is an important first step in
tackling suicide.
It emerged as a result of much lobbying.
The key now is delivery. We need to see the implementation of this approach.
We also need to integrate the existing strategies north and south.
Last week the Assembly mandated the Health Committee to conduct an
inquiry into suicide, gathering evidence on the problem, and
reporting back to the Executive and the Assembly by February.

This presents an important opportunity to push suicide prevention
to the top of the Executive s policy agenda.

It also presents an opportunity to further build an alliance
against suicide on this island

In that vein, I m very pleased to welcome here today, Dan Neville,
TD, President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, as a key
note speaker and a well-respected campaigner for suicide prevention.

I know that Dan was key to getting an inquiry conducted into
suicide by the Committee on Health and Children in the Oireachtas.
I hope that our own Health Committee will seek and learn from that
experience and draw upon those findings.

Government mindset

Suicide is now better understood than before and it is accepted
that suicide victims and survivors should be treated with
compassion and care.

I know that the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey understands the
urgency of this issue and I welcome the establishment of the
Ministerial Task Force.

But only a tiny proportion of the budget in the north and in the
south is devoted to mental health.

Professor Bamford s Review on Mental Health and Learning Disability
is now with the Department of Health.

It is vital that action is taken to implement the changes recommended.

Mental health treatment and services, especially those which are
community-based, are still not taken seriously. This needs to be
rectified.

The governments must show leadership on suicide prevention.

Families to the fore

One section of society that has been unwavering in its
determination to make progress has been the bereaved families.

I have met many of these families. Some of them are here today with
us. Fáilte mór romhaibh.

Their strength in the face of this awful hurt is remarkable.

They have been to the fore in helping others.

They deserve not only our respect and praise; they deserve
practical assistance and public investment.

Burn-out is increasingly being felt by community activists and
others providing pastoral or voluntary care for those in need.

The challenge for us is to transform this society into one which
gives hope to the next generation, and for which they can develop
their own vision.

Steps forward

We need to mobilise civic society.
We need to equip and skill ourselves to reduce and prevent suicide.
There are now also more meetings between officials about suicide
prevention north and south. That is useful.
But we are still far short of the concerted, integrated all Ireland
action lead by champions in government north and south.
Targets for suicide reduction need to be set.
As our colleagues in Leinster House have argued these would provide
an accelerant for change.
With practical and measurable steps, and proper and effective
resources, we can begin to tackle this crisis and dispel the panic
and fear about suicide.

Above all, we have to give hope.

Le dochas tá seans ag gach rud.

Hope in life and a desire to live.

We can do that by providing resources and appropriate and effective
strategies and by delivery of practical and common sense practices
and services.



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