12 January 2006

Shocking suicide rates for West


The suicide rate in West Belfast is almost twice the average of rates in the North a new report shows.

The Interim Report of the Suicide Taskforce, obtained by the Andersonstown News, shows that West Belfast had the highest suicide rate in any parliamentary constituency in the North from 1999-2003.

West Belfast is closely followed by the North of the city.

The statistics show there were 9.8 suicides per 100,000 persons per year from 1999 to 2003 in the North. In West Belfast the rate stands at 18.1.
Figures for North Belfast show a rate of 17.9 per 100,000 people in the same time frame.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has described the statistics in the Interim Report as “deeply disturbing”.

“These statistics give a shocking insight into the extent of suicide and self-harm in the North of Ireland, but in particular in West and North Belfast where levels are twice the six county average,” said Mr Adams.

In June last year Sinn Féin, along with community activists and the bereaved families of some of those who died through suicide, met the Minister with responsibility for health, Shaun Woodward.
In the same month Sinn Féin held a conference at Stormont calling for a Suicide Prevention Strategy for the North, the creation of a taskforce to develop a new strategy, the allocation of funds to make it work, and an integrated all-Ireland approach to this problem.

Following this the Suicide Taskforce was established by the Minister for Health. Its final draft strategy, which will include recommendations for consultation, will be published soon.

“This interim report gives a very clear picture of the scale of the problem and the failures thus far by the health authorities in tackling this problem,” said Mr Adams.
“The statistics make appalling and frightening reading,” he added.
The link between deprivation and suicide and self-harm is starkly highlighted by the report with the suicide rate in deprived areas 75 per cent greater than in non-deprived areas.

“The failure of the health systems to deal with this issue is evident in the review by the Taskforce of the ten action points in the Promoting Mental Health Strategy and Action Plan,” said Mr Adams.

“These failures are attributed to lack of recurrent funding and dedicated resources, lack of co-ordination and health service priority and inability to successfully engage GPs and other health professionals on this issue,” he added.

The Sinn Féin President says that the report’s strengths lie in those measures it identifies as necessary for meeting the challenge of suicide prevention. “This Interim Report from the Suicide Taskforce is a useful first step but that is all it is,” said Mr Adams

“The key to progress will be determined by the draft strategy and the commitment of government to implement and resource it, including a commitment to an all-Ireland approach to this issue.

“The next steps are vital if suicide prevention and the saving of lives is to become real.

“The Department of Health has now published its priorities and budget for 2006-08. I welcome the fact that it states that priority will be given to reducing the number of suicides. However, it’s results which count,” he added.

Colm Donaghy, Chief Executive of the Southern Health and Social Services Board, is the Chair of the Suicide Taskforce.

“We need to look in more depth at why North and West Belfast have high suicide rates,” said Mr Donaghy.

“This is a progress report and is not the final report and in the draft strategy we will make recomendations to examine why the levels are high in North and West Belfast,” he added.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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