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Sinn Féin to hold major seminar on Suicide

31 January, 2005

Sinn Féin is to hold a major seminar to discus the issue of suicide in Ballynahinch next month, a town which within South Down has been identified as having a particular problem and statistics show that per head of capita has one of the highest suicide rates in Western Europe.

The seminar will be held in the Market House, Ballynahinch on the 23rd of February starting at 8pm to discus what support can be offered to families touched by suicide and how preventative measures can be put in place to tackle a crisis that has now reached epidemic levels

Speaking as plans were finalised for the meeting South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane said:

"The high suicide rate blighting urban and rural communities across the island of Ireland affects families regardless of class, religion or politics. It is an issue that is still a taboo subject but unless the causes are dealt with seriously the only guarantee will be that many more families have to face such a loss.

"Within South Down Ballynahinch has been identified as having a particular problem and statistics show that per head of capita it has one of the highest suicide rates in Western Europe.

"To be successful, it is important for this initiative top have cross party support and the meeting will be open to all political parties, churches, schools, statutory agencies and individual members of the community. Only by acting collectively can we hope to address this problem. The system is failing our young people and others at risk of self-harm. At what is a very difficult time for families it is essential that the community provides the necessary help and support for people to deal with the bereavement and loss that death by suicide brings.

"Suicide is currently the number one cause of death of males under 25 and although all age groups are affected young people seem particularly at risk. To change this, we need a community-led, strategic approach to mental health involving awareness-raising; suicide prevention; crisis intervention and family support.

"I welcome some of the initiatives that have taken placed in schools in the Ballynahinch area. This is very important work and deserves to be supported.

"Society seems unable to acknowledge the scale of the problem, and it is important that people start talking about it and treat it with the seriousness it deserves. Suicide must be addressed with the same vigour and determination given to reducing deaths on the roads and we must raise public awareness and seek to reduce the number of people who for many reasons have taken their own life. This is still very much a taboo subject and is a hidden tragedy for many families.

"Suicide is a subject that is rarely, if ever, discussed within the home or in school and as a consequence young people are ill equipped to cope with the emotional crisis that can provoke a suicide attempt. We need to learn from other areas with similar problems throughout Ireland and study what initiatives and support mechanisms they have taken to deal with this issue. Schools and youth groups must be given the funding to do more to raise awareness of the problem and government money must be allocated to prepare young people for life as adults." ENDS

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