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Adams addresses major conference on Suicide Prevention

27 June, 2005

Sinn Féin today held a conference at Parliament Buildings Stormont to highlight the need for a suicide prevention strategy for the north, as well as one which will encompass the entire island.

Among those attending were relatives and friends of victims of suicide and self-harm, as well as community groups and activists specialising in this area of work.

Speaking at the conference the Sinn Féin President and West Belfast MP Gerry Adams said:

"Ireland has the second highest rate of suicide in Europe. There were 577 reported deaths by suicide in Ireland in the year 2003-2004. That death toll is greater than the number of people killed in traffic accidents over the same period. And suicide is the biggest killer of our young people in Ireland.

West and North Belfast have been particularly badly affected. Since the beginning of this year, it is reported that about 60 people have taken their own lives in the six counties. Reports would indicate that perhaps as many as one third of those deaths were in north and west Belfast. The rate of suicide is 50% higher than average in west and north Belfast.

This puts into perspective the scale of the suicide problem we face today.

The governments in Dublin and Belfast, must move quickly catch up. There is a consensus that we need a suicide prevention strategy which encompasses the north and the whole island.

What does this entail?

In the short term gaps of funding and resources must be filled, for example, north and west Belfast should have a 'Crisis Response Unit'. Longer term and by that I mean in the next few months, we need to see the:

  • The formulation, funding and implementation of a suicide prevention strategy for the six counties, which can be integrated into an all-Ireland approach;
  • The creation of a task force to lead the development and implementation of the new strategy for suicide prevention and that this ensures effective inter-departmental co-ordination and action;
  • That the budget allocation for mental health services is substantially increased;
  • That suicide prevention is explicitly identified in the draft Priorities for Action of the Department of Health for 2006;
  • That the under-funding of mental health and the lack of mainstream funding for community-led services in west and north Belfast is urgently rectified;
  • That a proposal is developed for 24/7 crisis intervention, involving statutory provision with community-based and community-led care and treatment, and accessible facilities;
  • That suicide prevention is made a priority Area for Co-operation between the Health Departments in Belfast and Dublin under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council;

Families and communities want a voice on the problem of suicide. They want their voice to be heard. Families are not receiving the support they need to cope with someone who is feeling suicidal, or with the aftermath of someone who takes his or her own life."

Concluding Mr. Adams said:

"Today's conference is a small but I believe important contribution to raising awareness around this tragic issue, as well as making progress. The Minister has said that he too will host a conference in August. All well and good. But what we here today, and the many others beyond this building effected by this issue want to see is delivery; delivery on promises; delivery on commitments; delivery on resources; delivery on funding; delivery on the strategies and policies which will finally begin the difficult work of tackling the growing and serious issue of suicide and self-harm." ENDS

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