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Call for speedy implementation of Suicide Prevention Strategy - Adams

24 July, 2006

Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams and a party delegation, including Kathy Stanton MLA, John O'Dowd MLA and Caitriona Ruane MLA today met with the British Direct Rule Minister for Health Paul Goggins to press for the speedy and effective implementation of the regional suicide prevention strategy and a co-ordinated all-Ireland approach to this area of public policy.

Mr. Adams said:

"The meeting was very useful. It provided us with an opportunity to raise with the Minster a number of key concerns about the implementation of the suicide prevention strategy.

The West Belfast MP speaking afterward said:

"Suicide across the island has become the biggest killer of our young people. In the last decade the incidence of suicide in Ireland has increased by more than 25%. In 2003 there were 577 people who died through suicide, more than the death rate as a result of road traffic accidents.

"That is why Sinn Féin has been campaigning for a suicide prevention strategy in the north, as well as on an all-island basis.

"Sinn Féin believes that the paper produced by the Department of Health, ŒProtect Life a Shared Vision‚ is an important first step in tackling suicide. It emerged as a result of much lobbying by bereaved relatives and Sinn Féin. The key now is delivery. We need to see the implementation of this approach.

"However, we have a range of concerns about the detail of the strategy, its funding and the timetable for its implementation which we raised with the Minister today.

"For example, we asked him to provide us with clear information on which department will be responsible for implementing the various elements of the strategy. We also asked for a commitment on a start date and what are the government‚s priorities within the strategy for implementation.

"Sinn Féin views the input of bereaved families and friends as crucial to the oversight and implementation of the strategy. We pressed the Minister to spell out when the Family Forum is to be established, whether it will receive core funding, and will there be a separate mechanism for allowing families to meet the Minister on a regular basis to update him on progress.

"We also raised with him the funding of those community and voluntary groups which provide a crucial support for people at risk. Many face closure because of lack of funding. This is along with the budget deficit in funding for mental health services, one of the major issues which the Minister must deal with as a matter of urgency.

"There was also discussion about the creation of a telephone help-line and the introduction of proper training and protocols for health professionals to care for individuals and families affected by suicide. Plans underway for an information campaign on an all-Ireland basis are welcome. Sinn Fein wants to see harmonisation and integration of strategies on suicide prevention on an all-Ireland basis." ENDS

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