Suicide group blasts delay

Suicide group blasts delay

6 November 2019

A LEADING charity has criticised Newry, Mourne and Down Council for delaying the implementation of a zero suicide policy across the district.

The Suicide Down to Zero organisation is concerned that four months after agreeing to implement the policy, there is no visible evidence of council officials acting on the 

instruction of local politicians.

The charity — which aims to reduce suicide rates across the district to zero — recently unveiled details of a new four-year strategy and insists that there is no acceptable rate of suicide.

Charity officials say that while many people believe that those who die through suicide or who may have suicidal thoughts are mentally ill, that is not always the case. 

They say there are many factors involved when someone chooses to end their life, with mental illness just one of them. 

Suicide Down to Zero says everyone needs to know what is factual and what is not about suicide with its concern about the council’s delay in implementing the new policy fuelled by the fact that the number of suicides in the Newry, Mourne and Down area is on average 25 a year, the second highest only to Belfast in terms of deaths.

A spokesman for the charity said that on July 1, the local authority agreed to formally introduce a suicide down to zero policy.

“Four months on, none of the actions outlined in a motion which was endorsed by local politicians is apparent,” he said.

“On average, two people die by suicide every month in the council area.”

The spokesman said that the July motion committed Newry, Mourne and Down Council to develop closer partnerships with local mental health and suicide prevention charities.

He continued: “It also committed the organisation to establish a suicide prevention working group with a dedicated council officer responsible, convene quarterly meetings with representation from all party groupings and make available resources to develop and implement a strategy of bringing suicides in the district down to zero.

“It was also proposed that a new small grants scheme be established to fund projects specifically dealing with mental health and suicide in the district under the auspices of the  Active and Healthy Communities Directorate.”

The spokesman said Suicide Down to Zero, which is supporting the development of more active models of aftercare following the death of a loved one through suicide, believes that the delay in implementing the zero suicide approach frustrates the will of the elected representatives and the ratepayers who elected them.

A council spokeswoman said that a notice of motion was tabled on June 17 in relation to suicide, which included asking the local authority to investigate the possibility of adopting a ‘suicide down to zero’ approach to combat the high prevalence of suicide across the district.

She confirmed that the motion also focused on exploring a closer partnership working with local mental health and suicide prevention charities and to investigate the establishment of a suicide prevention working group with a dedicated council officer.

The spokeswoman said the motion also urged the council to explore the possibility of establishing a new small grants scheme within the existing financial assistance programme to fund specific projects that can address mental health and suicide within the district.

“Since the motion was tabled, the Department of Health has launched the Protect Life 2 Strategy for Northern Ireland,” she continued.

“Newry, Mourne and Down Council is working with its community planning partners, which includes the two local health trusts, to inform how the council assists in the implementation of the Protect Life 2 strategy within the district.”

The spokeswoman added: “The council has met with community planning partners and discussions are ongoing in relation to developing a financial assistance scheme.”