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Praise for Families of Suicide Victims - Adams

25 October, 2006

Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams today attended the launch by the West Belfast Suicide Awareness Support Group of a ribbon to support suicide awareness.

Mr. Adams praised, 'the fortitude, spirit and commitment of the families who have been the driving force in moving the British government to address this issue, develop new strategies and allocate resources. Their tireless work means that those at risk have been given new hope for the future.'

The West Belfast MP added:

"The new suicide prevention strategy 'Protect Life' unveiled this summer by the Department of Health only emerged as a result of the combined efforts of families, community organisations and Sinn Fein. Progress is being made. The allocation of community support funding in north and west Belfast is one consequence of this strategy. However, with the rate of suicide in west and north Belfast is twice the rate of any other part of the Six Counties, much more needs to be done."

Note to Editor:

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.

In the world today, every forty seconds a person takes his or her own life. That means in the next hour, 90 people will have died from suicide. Every three seconds, a person attempts to die. There are more people killed on this planet through suicide than by war or homicide.(source : World Health Organisation)

The campaign for a regional suicide prevention strategy in the six counties and on an all-Ireland basis has now been ongoing since 2004:

August 2004 - Gerry Adams, MP, wrote to Angela Smith on the issue of suicide prevention

October 2004 - Gerry Adams lead a delegation of Sinn Fein and community activists to meet with Angela Smith. Amongst the proposals tabled was the creation of a regional suicide prevention strategy and that the Department of Health take the lad role in prioritising suicide prevention in its own budgetary priorities for action.

December 2004 - SF met with the Irish joint secretary of the North-South Ministerial Council to discuss how suicide prevention could be made an Area of Co-operation

February 2005 - a roundtable meeting requested by Gerry Adams between SF, Dept. of Health and others was held in City Hall. At this, Dept. of health announced a regional sub- group was being formed to look at suicide prevention.

March 2005 - SF met with the Children's Commissioner in the north and urged his office to join forces with the Ombudsman for Children in the 26 counties.

April 2005 - North and West Health & Social Services Trust, with whom SF had been meeting in preceding months, convened an event to set up a task group to develop area specific proposals on suicide prevention for north and west Belfast

April 2005 - families began to hold protests at N&W Trust and Eastern Board meetings at lack of progress

May 2005 - Gerry Adams wrote to Mary Harney and requested a meeting on suicide prevention. Correspondence and communication has continued since with no reply from M.Harney. A freedom of information request submitted by G.Adams office to M.Harney's department is pending.

June 2005 - Sinn Fein held an event at Stormont to launch the campaign for a regional suicide prevention strategy. By this time, Angela Smith had been replaced by Shaun Woodward.

June 2005- Sinn Fein and families met with Shaun Woodward. Afterwards, he announced that the regional sub- group was to be made a regional Task Force and would have the creation of a suicide prevention strategy as its remit.

October 2005 - Dept of health indicates that suicide prevention will be a priority for action in its interim budget bid. Around that time, SF met with the regional Task Force chaired by Colm Donaghy and made representations to him on the components of any new strategy.

January 2006 - regional Task Force made its final report to Shaun Woodward including recommendations for a regional suicide prevention strategy and an all-Ireland approach. It also highlighted that west Belfast, followed by north Belfast, were indeed the constituencies with the highest rate of suicide over a 5 year longditudinal study of official statistics.

March 2006 - Shaun Woodward published 'Protect Life' a shared vision. A suicide prevention strategy and action plan 2006-2011. He also ringfenced money for suicide prevention

March - June 2006 , consultation was organised on the draft strategy. SF made a submission to this consultation process. Also during this period, Ogra Shinn Fein organised a campaign for an all-Ireland approach to suicide prevention.

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