21 October 2004 Edition

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Adams urges serious action to tackle suicide

Sinn Féin MP Gerry Adams urged the British Government to take urgent action to tackle the alarming rates of suicide in West and North Belfast after Sinn Féin Assembly member Fra McCann was left mourning the sudden death of his brother.

Emmanuel McCann was found dead on Tuesday afternoon in his home on the Springfield Road in West Belfast, the third suspected suicide to be reported in West Belfast over the last week.

Adams said he was numbed by the news and offered his condolences and prayers to the McCann family. He said his thoughts are with all the families at this difficult time.

"This is the second time in recent years that suicide has visited the McCann family, indeed today's death brings to three the number of suicides in West Belfast alone in the past week," said Adams.

Adams said that only last week Fra had accompanied himself and other party colleagues to discuss the issue of suicide in West and North Belfast with NIO Minister Angela Smith.

"It is clear from the suicide rates, particularly amongst the young, that the current system is failing and urgent action needs to be taken," said the Sinn Féin leader.

Rise in rates

Meanwhile, a report by the Institute of Public Health and the Health Development Agency has called for a strategy to combat the rise in suicide rates among young people. The report adds that suicide should be a public health priority throughout Ireland.

One of the report's authors, Dr Philip Crowley, speaking in Belfast on Tuesday 19 October, said youth suicide is increasing both North and South and it is an issue that we have to deal with.

"Wide ranging research involving large youth samples is needed to help define the factors that could lower suicide rates," he said. "We should look at some of these promising interventions, like promoting family cohesion, like working with primary care to identify people who are at risk, and promoting self esteem among young people."

Crowley said he would ask health Ministers North and South to take the issue of youth suicide seriously and to ensure that they are working on strategies that are based on all the available evidence.

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