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Reducing suicide rates is a goal for us all

Working together across Government, at community level, in voluntary organisations and throughout society, is vital to reducing suicide rates.
Tuesday, 20 November 2012

That was the message from the Health Minister Edwin Poots as he hosted a meeting with international expert in suicide prevention, Dr Annette Beautrais and a number of Executive Colleagues.

Speaking at the meeting, the Minister said: “Suicide rates in Northern Ireland have risen since 2006. Around 300 people a year in Northern Ireland continue to die by suicide every year. I’d estimate that we have at least 3,000 families dealing with the trauma and pain of suicide. Their pain will last for decades and they themselves are at elevated risk of suicide. This is a vicious circle that we have to break.

“My department has invested over £32million in suicide prevention and, while we face significant challenges ahead, I do believe that our investment in suicide prevention has saved lives. The situation would be much worse if these resources had not been made available and put to good use by community, voluntary and statutory agencies. I am under no illusion of the task facing us in tackling this problem.

“I am pleased to welcome Dr Annette Beautrais to meet with us today. Her work with suicide research and prevention centres contributes to the development of guidelines and national strategies for suicide prevention are renowned. We can learn much from her experiences.”

The meeting was attended by;

1. Department of Health- Minister Edwin Poots

2. Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister - Junior Minister Jennifer McCann and Junior Minister Jonathan Bell

3. Department of Justice - Minister David Ford

4. Department of Education - Minister John O'Dowd

5. Department for Regional Development - Minister Danny Kennedy

6. Department for Employment and Learning - Minister Stephen Farry

7. Representative from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

8. Representative from the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure

9. PHA - Chief Executive, Eddie Rooney

10. Representatives from the Department of Health

The Minister continued: “We must enhance the cross-departmental approach to suicide prevention and address, at a strategic level, the risk factors that fall outside the remit of health and social care. As I have said many times, suicide is not purely a health issue, it is a societal issue. That is why it is important for us to work together through the Ministerial Co-ordination Group on Suicide Prevention which, incidentally, I am hoping to call together again in January.

“Practically all government departments and agencies have a role in improving people’s mental welling and emotional resilience. I am encouraged that so many Ministers and representatives from various government departments took the time to come today.

“A reduction in suicide is a huge challenge, particularly against a backdrop of increasing economic hardship and high levels of deprivation. The opportunity to hear from an internationally acclaimed expert of Dr Beautrais’ standing is not to be missed.”

Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive, PHA said: “Suicide and self harm is a major problem in Northern Ireland, the PHA has a lead role in implementing regional mental health promotion and suicide prevention strategies, in partnership with the five Health and Social Care Trusts (HSCT’s) and the community and voluntary sector.

“Today’s workshop will bring together local experts to hear from Dr Beautrais on identifying the key areas that need to be included in government policy, this will be central to future planning, in tackling suicide.

“As well as today’s workshop Dr Beautrais will also be facilitating workshops for professionals from the HSC sector and community and voluntary organisations. The workshops will focus on identifying potential clusters and interventions to suicide risk. It is important that we continue to work in partnership with those on the ground who are often best placed to see the needs and provide local solutions. We know that trusted, accessible community based facilities, supported by skilled and experienced mental health professionals, are a key factor in suicide prevention.”

Notes to editors:

1. For information on looking after your mental health and the support available across Northern Ireland can be found on the Minding Your Head website

2. If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website

3. Media queries about this release to DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0571. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.