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World Suicide Prevention Day - Adams Announces Stormont Conference

9 September, 2007

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will announce details of a Stormont Conference to discuss Suicide Awareness tomorrow, Monday September 10th, on World Suicide Prevention Day.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA, who today took part in a march in west Belfast to mark World Suicide Day, has announced that Sinn Féin is holding a special conference on Suicide Awareness and Prevention will be held in the Long Gallery, Stormont on September 24th.

The conference will be attended by relatives bereaved as a result of suicide, as well as health professionals, politicians, and government Ministers involved in trying to tackle this serious problem.

Mr. Adams said:

"The global death toll resulting from suicide exceeds war and homicide according to a recent scientific journal (New Scientist, 8th September 2004). The World Health Organisation estimates that nearly one million people a year take their own lives.

"Ireland has one of the worst incidences of suicide. It is the biggest killer of young people in our country. That makes suicide a national crisis - a national disaster. In response to that, we urgently require an effective national disaster plan.

"Families the length and breadth of Ireland know only too well the devastating impact of suicide. There were 577 reported deaths by suicide across this island in the year 2003 to 2004. That death toll is greater than the number of people killed in traffic accidents in the same period.

"Over the last ten years, reported suicides in Ireland have risen by more than 25%. North and west Belfast have been particularly affected. Suicides have convulsed local communities, exacerbating the sense of powerlessness which people feel when faced with the reality of a loved one taking their own life. In recent weeks and days, more families have been traumatised by suicide.

"This conference will mark one year since the new establishment of a regional suicide prevention strategy in the six counties. It is an opportunity to reflect on what more needs to be done. Suicide remains a preventable crisis in our society. Both legislatures on this island have a civic duty to integrate action and policy to make suicide prevention a governmental priority.

"The conference in Stormont will provide an opportunity to discuss all of these matters. The conference will also hear from those charged with developing and implementing suicide awareness and prevention strategies, and with providing the resources for dealing with this issue." ENDS

Note to Editors

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 anall-Ireland approach to suicide prevention.

July 2006 - Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams lead a delegation to meet with Paul Goggins on the final suicide prevention strategy. The Dept. of Health later increased the first allocation of resources for the strategy to west and north Belfast after Mr Adams made a phonecall to Paul Goggins.

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