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Too many lives still being lost to suicide - Adams

9 October, 2006

Sinn Féin President and West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has said the speedy and effective implementation of the regional suicide prevention strategy in the north and a co-ordinated all-Ireland approach to this issue is urgent.

Mr. Adams made his call on World Mental Health day, 10th October 2006, as he revealed that new figures released show that last year 645 people on the island of Ireland lost their lives through suicide

The West Belfast MP 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 2003/04 there were 577 people who died through suicide. Figures recently compiled indicate that last year, the total number of people who died as a result of suicide was 645. Loss of life on that scale can only be regarded as a national disaster and as such we need a national response.

"We know that for every life lost many more people are affected. That is why Sinn Féin is campaigning for suicide prevention strategies north and south to be integrated on an all-island basis.

"The Department of Health in the north has found that 90% of suicides are associated with mental health needs. It was also found that 30% of children and adolescents are affected by mental health problems and many have experienced psychiatric disorders at the time of their death.

"However, a recent review of mental health commissioned in the six counties has found that only 6% of the health budget is spent on mental health, and less than 1% is spent on children‚s mental health. Of those young people who actually receive mental health support, many are put in adult mental health wards. The lack of provision for adolescent mental health care is criminally negligent and is endangering young lives.

"The void between community need and government resources is most acute in areas such as west and north Belfast, where poverty and deprivation put people at greatest risk. Yet the deficit in mental health funding in north and west Belfast has been £2m per year over many years.

"Sinn Féin believes that the paper produced by the Department of Health in the six counties 'Protect 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. We also need to integration of existing strategies north and south, with Departments and Ministers working together with families and communities.

"Sinn Féin views the input of bereaved families and friends as crucial to the oversight and implementation of suicide prevention strategies.

"Proposals for a new telephone help-line and the introduction of proper training and protocols in suicide awareness for health professionals need to be speedily and fully resourced. Plans underway for an information campaign on an all-Ireland basis are welcome.

"Sinn Féin wants to see harmonisation and integration of strategies on suicide prevention on an all-Ireland basis. I will be in contact with Ministers north and south to advance this agenda." ENDS

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