Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has said that twelve years after the commencement of the campaign for a suicide prevention strategy for the North and ten years after ‘A Vision for Change’, the need for an all-island suicide prevention strategy is essential.
Writing in his blog today, Teachta Adams said:
“There is not a single family across this island that has not been affected by the challenge of mental health issues. Allied to this is the issue of suicide. It is now believed that the real figures for suicide across the island of Ireland are as high as 1,000 people annually.
“The impact on families and communities is huge. Most are left wondering, why? They are left asking what they could have done to prevent the death of a loved one. The emotional trauma is enormous. In the aftermath of a suicide, especially of a young person, the potential of others also taking their own lives is high. I still remember visiting the wake homes of four young victims from the Upper Springfield area in west Belfast who had all died from suicide within days of each other.
“There is no single or easy explanation for someone deciding to take their life. In my experience the reasons can be many; mental health problems, loneliness, alcohol and substance misuse, an absence of hope for the future, can all contribute to suicide.
“There is also a clear and direct correlation between deprivation and suicide. In every statistical analysis that I have read areas of high unemployment and deprivation suffer greater levels of suicide. At the same time, suicide is no respecter of class or age or gender.
“Twelve years ago, I was the MP for west Belfast which had, along with north Belfast the highest suicide rates in the north. In October 2004, I led a delegation of Sinn Féin and community activists to meet with the British Direct Rule Minister Angela Smith. Families bereaved by suicide were leaders in this endeavour. Amongst the proposals we tabled was the creation of a regional suicide prevention strategy and an all-Ireland strategy.
“The intensive lobby in the north succeeded in 2006 in securing the establishment of the ‘Protect Life’ suicide prevention strategy and action plan. Since then over £50 million has been spent on suicide prevention. Undoubtedly many lives have been saved but the recent statistics are evidence that much more needs to be done.
“Suicide is also a major issue in the south. In June, the Mental Health Commission published its annual report. The State's mental health policy, ‘A Vision for Change’, has been in place since 2006 and the Mental Health Commission undertook a strategic review as part of developing a new strategic plan for 2016-2018.
“Twelve years after the commencement of the campaign for a suicide prevention strategy for the north, and ten years after ‘A Vision for Change’, the need for an all-island suicide prevention strategy is even greater than ever. Such a strategy needs to be properly funded and coordinated and bring together all of the statutory agencies, including health and education. Voluntary and community groups cannot provide this. Governments must do so.”