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Adams welcomes free access to suicide prevention helpline

14 March, 2007

West Belfast MP, MLA, Gerry Adam, Sinn Féin President, has welcomed the decision by all mobile phone networks to withdraw any call charges to the suicide prevention helpline in north and west Belfast.

Mr Adams said:

"Sinn Féin has made the development and implementation of a regional suicide prevention strategy and an all-Ireland approach to this issue a priority.

"We last met with Paul Goggins, direct rule Minister for Health In January 2007. At that meeting, Sinn Fein raised number of concerns about the implementation of the new strategy for suicide prevention in the six counties.

"Among the issues discussed was the pilot project in west and north Belfast which provides a suicide prevention helpline and referral service. We asked that the helpline would receive further funding from the Department of Health to continue its work. We also expressed our concern that one mobile phone company was charging calls to the suicide prevention helpline, which was supposed to be a free of charge to callers."

"Since our meeting, the Department has confirmed that the suicide prevention helpline will receive extra funding to continue after the end of March 2007 for at least another 6 months on a pilot basis. The longer term future of the helpline still needs to be agreed and secured.

"Today, I received a further letter from Paul Goggins to say that the mobile phone network O2 has agreed to make calls to the helpline free of charge. It has also agreed to remove the helpline number from customer's bills, affording more privacy to those who choose to use the helpline itself.

"This is another step forward. Sinn Féin will continue to press for additional resources to meet the disproportionate rate of suicide throughout north and west Belfast, including the Shankill community. In conjunction with families bereaved across this island, we will continue to campaign for suicide prevention to be made a national priority on an all-Ireland basis." ENDS

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