30/03/2006

Suicide rate rises almost 50% in NI

Figures on the suicide rate in Northern Ireland have revealed an almost 50% increase on the numbers committing suicide last year.

Figures released by the General Register’s Office revealed that 213 people took their own lives in 2005.

The statistics published today come ahead of an announcement by Health Minister Shaun Woodward, which will provide full funding for a suicide prevention strategy recommended by a special taskforce.

Mr Woodward said: "I am sure everyone is very concerned by today’s figures which show a near fifty per cent increase in the number of suicides over the last year in Northern Ireland."

Commenting in advance of outlining the detail of his strategy at a conference later today, the Minister said: "These figures are clearly shocking. The fact that 213 people took their own lives clearly is a problem which we all have a duty to address. This year’s increases make the need to tackle the underlying causes of suicide and self harm all the more necessary and urgent.

"Over the last year the taskforce has tried to assemble a strategy which will guide everyone working in the mental health field with a coherent way forward. Of course there is rarely a single cause of a suicide. The causes are often multiple. That doesn’t change the need to address the issue; it does however make the task significantly more complex.

"Today I want to back their recommendations in full. I will finance their recommendations in full. And later today I will be announcing a number of fresh initiatives to meet those recommendations.

"It is important to remember however that no society anywhere in the world is without the problem of suicide. There are no quick fix solutions. Evidence from Scotland, England or the United States also suggests that whatever approaches are adopted do not necessarily even produce a turnaround in the figures. However, the difficulty and the enormity of the task should not be an obstacle to our collective determination to make whatever progress we can.

"In the past we have seen reports on suicide and mental health and not enough action following through. Today marks a new approach and a renewed commitment."

The government had provisionally set aside £1 million on a suicide prevention strategy for the coming year, but following the taskforce report this will now almost double to £1.9 million to meet the taskforce recommendations and a further £2.4 million will be set aside for the 2007/08 financial year.

The taskforce will remain in post for at least a further year to ensure that all recommendations are enacted and that the strategy is fully implemented.

(SP/KMcA)

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