Almost 230 people have died through suicide in just nine years

Almost 230 people have died through suicide in just nine years

7 March 2018

A STAGGERING 229 people have lost their lives to suicide in the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area over the past nine years.

The figure was revealed at the local authority’s monthly meeting on Monday night when politicians called on the Department of Health to provide new suicide prevention centres across the Province to provide vital support for people facing crisis situations.

There was unanimous support for a motion tabled by Cllr Gareth Sharvin urging the government department to do more to address the issue of suicide and provide much-needed support for those in despair or distress.

Cllr Sharvin said that despite Northern Ireland having the highest suicide rate in the UK, mental health funding had been cut by 25%.

“Over the past nine years in our council area, 229 people have lost their lives to suicide,” he said. “That is the number of people living in villages like Raholp, Maghera or Kilclief.

“Effectively, suicide has wiped away a small village in our district. “In the last year alone in Northern Ireland, 221 people died as a result of suicide.”

Cllr Sharvin said the local council area had the fourth highest suicide rate in the province.

“Increased funding for mental health services would help deal with the crisis, with the creation of suicide prevention centres providing safe haven,” he said.

“Speaking to local groups who provide suicide prevention support, I was shocked to discover that a seven year-old child is receiving treatment.

“A young child is actually thinking of taking their own life,” he said, revealing that two of his friends lost their lives to suicide over recent months. 

Cllr Sharvin said there needed to be “safe spaces” created in areas where suicide rates were high with help and support provided by qualified mental health professionals. 

He also urged the council to use its digital platforms and leaflets to provide contact details of those who can help people perhaps thinking about taking their own lives.

Cllr Billy Walker said suicide was an issue which touched many people, revealing a good friend of his took his own life a number of years ago.

He said figures published last year revealed that outside Belfast, his electoral area had the highest reported number of suicides.

“This is an alarming statistic with the suicide issue particularly prevalent among young people. What is happening is very sad and it is important all the agencies work together to provide help to those people who need it,” he added.

Slieve Croob councillor Mark Murnin highlighted the excellent work of the highly acclaimed Life Change, Changes Lives charity in Downpatrick which provided help and support to people suffering with a range of mental health issues and addiction problems and also offered a suicide intervention service.

“If you can get people suffering from problems including mental health issues to come forward for support this can produce positive outcomes as the Downpatrick charity has proved,” he said.

“Sadly, the Department of Health has not visited this excellent facility or indeed provided any financial support. If the Department is not going to provide funding for new suicide centres, it must support those already in place.”

Cllr Terry Andrews believed more could be done to enhance mental health services, with a key first step the provision of funding to provide dedicated suicide prevention centres, while Cllr Glyn Hanna said it must be remembered that suicide was a mental illness.

He pointed to a lack of access to support for people “in moments of crisis” with individuals and families depending on charities like the Samaritans.

Cllr Willie Clarke commended the various community organisations which play key roles helping people contemplating taking their own lives.