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No more equivocation on Suicide Prevention - Gerry Adams

10 November, 2005

As work on the long awaited Regional Task Force Report on suicide prevention nears completion, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has said that there can be no more equivocation on suicide prevention.

Mr Adams said:

"In view of the anticipated release of the Task Force report on suicide prevention, there is a heavy onus on everyone to ensure that real and effective measures are taken to prevent and halt the alarming rise in suicide rates, not only in Belfast, but also across the whole island. My communication with both governments on this issue is ongoing. I have asked Shaun Woodward, the direct rule Minister for Health for a copy of the interim report prepared by the Task Force. I welcome his decision to make suicide prevention a priority for the Department of Health.

"Sinn Féin believes that any meaningful strategy on suicide prevention must be set in the context of an all Ireland approach, which will best utilise the resources available, as for example the targeting of mental health resources across the various health boards north and south in one coordinated approach. This needs to be done throughout the 32 counties. I have asked Shaun Woodward and Mary Harney, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health, to make suicide prevention an area of co-operation under the North-South Ministerial Council to give the issue the strategic co-ordination it requires.

"Moreover, local communities must be resourced and supported. They are in the front line on this issue. West and North Belfast have been disproportionately affected by the high rate of suicide. It is also abundantly clear that a huge shortfall in mainstream British government funding has stymied much-needed mental health services in these areas.

"Most importantly all of this needs to be linked in with the families who are dealing with the consequences of their loved ones who have taken their own lives, or have attempted to do so. These families need our continued support. This is the very least that any caring society can provide.

"We must all strive to have in place the most effective framework for ensuring that the well being of our citizens and particularly our young people are catered for. Our young people are our future; we need to cherish them and invest in that future.

"This ethos must be reflected in the forthcoming Task force report, along with a clearly defined strategic and practical framework to deal with the issue. All of this should be speedily implemented. The time for equivocation on this issue has long since past." ENDS

Notes for Editor

1. Following a meeting earlier this year with the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP for West Belfast and a delegation of families bereaved and community activist campaigning on suicide awareness, the Minister for Health Shaun Woodward announced the creation of a regional Task Force to make recommendations regarding the development of a regional suicide prevention strategy.

2. Globally, the World Health Organisation identifies suicide as one of the top three causes of death in young people. In Ireland, suicide is the second leading cause of violent death in young people. Young men between the ages of 15-24 are most at risk.

3. Suicide rates in Ireland, north and south, have increased by more than 25% over the last decade The rate of suicide in north and west Belfast (19 per 100,000) is almost twice the rate for the north of Ireland (10 per 100,000)

4. Report of the Registrar General for the north of Ireland between January 2005 to June 2005 indicates that there were 96 deaths from suicide or self-harm. Almost half of these were people under the age of 35, with nearly 4 times as many men as women taking their own live during that period.

5. In a request for information from Gerry Adams MP earlier this year, figures from the North Ireland Statistics and Research Agency showed that the number of recorded suicides exceeded the number of deaths as a result of the conflict over the last 35 years.

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