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Adams attends Suicide Prevention Conference in Knockbracken

6 February, 2008

Sinn Féin President and west Belfast MP and MLA Gerry Adams will this morning attend "Addressing the challenges, acknowledging success", a Suicide Prevention Conference being held in the Knockbracken Hall, Knockbracken Healthcare Park, on the Saintfield Road.

The conference, which is being hosted by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, is an opportunity for family support projects, local community organisations, and representatives from the voluntary and statutory sector to come together, share lessons and experiences, and agree future priorities.

Mr. Adams said:

"The statistics for suicide make grim reading. Behind each death or person who self harms, is a family suffering immeasurable hurt and distress.

"While there has been significant progress in recent years in securing funding, as well as providing support and information, there remain many issues of concern around sustainable resources and mental health provision.

"In particular there are many people, including bereaved families, working in the community and voluntary sector who are worried that much of the funding allocated is not reaching those groups which are in the front line of dealing with this issue and who provide a lifeline for those at risk.

"There is also concern that responsibility for the suicide prevention strategy may be subsumed within 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. The suicide prevention strategy is in its infancy and needs effective oversight, proper resourcing and thorough implementation"

The west Belfast MP pointed out that "west and north Belfast suffer disproportionately higher levels of suicide than any other areas in the north and consequently they need additional resources".

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.

Mr. Adams said:

"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 Michael McGimpsey, the Minister of Health 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 said he had raised the need to provide funding for these projects, with the Health Minister last Minister last week.

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