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O2 decision on free calls to suicide helpline welcomed

14 March, 2007

Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has welcomed the announcement that mobile phone company O2 that calls to the pilot suicide prevention helpline will be free.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"This is an important decision, particularly as mobile phones are hugely popular with many young people. Now it is down to the other mobile phone companies to follow suit and indeed the Health Minster should enter into discussions with all of the other mobile phone operators.

"The statistics on suicide, particularly in west and north Belfast, are frightening. Suicide is the largest killer of our young people. There were 645 reported deaths by suicide across this island in the year 2004 to 2005. The death toll from suicide is greater than the number of people killed in traffic accidents in the same period.

"Families and communities are devastated by the pain of loved ones taking their own lives.

"Every effort must be made to ensure that adequate resources, funding and training is available to tackle this issue, and to help bereaved families.

"Sinn Féin want to see the role out of this pilot scheme so that it is available right across the island of Ireland because this is an all-Ireland problem it requires an all-Ireland strategic approach. 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.

"Specifically suicide prevention should also be made an area of co-operation under the auspices of the North-South Ministerial Council. This should be an issue of priority for the Irish Minister for Health Ms Harney and the current British direct rule Minister Paul Goggins, or his local successor in the event of the Executive being re-established." ENDS

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