7 July 2005 Edition

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Demand for Suicide Prevention Strategy

More than 80 people from across the island gathered in the Long Gallery to discuss the issue as well as launch a campaign to secure a suicide prevention strategy in the north, and one to encompasses the 32 Counties.

Families from North and West Belfast who attended the event were joined by people from throughout Ireland who have lost loved ones to suicide. Health professionals, community activists, and representatives from the statutory bodies and government officials were also in attendance and heard strong criticism of the inaction of Health Departments in Belfast and Dublin. Calls were made for a co-ordinated, fully resourced and all-Ireland strategy to prevent suicide and self-harm.

The event which was chaired by Pat O'Rawe MLA was also addressed by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.

The West Belfast MP was scathing in his criticism of the British government and the resistance of elements within the British system to the production of a suicide prevention strategy.

The Sinn Féin leader set out the broad demands of the campaign:

o In the short term gaps of funding and resources must be filled, for example, north and west Belfast should have a 'Crisis Response Unit'. Longer term and by that I mean in the next few months, we need to see the:

o The formulation, funding and implementation of a suicide prevention strategy for the Six Counties, which can be integrated into an all-Ireland approach;

o The creation of a task force to lead the development and implementation of the new strategy for suicide prevention and that this ensures effective inter-departmental co-ordination and action;

o That the budget allocation for mental health services is substantially increased;

o That suicide prevention is explicitly identified in the draft Priorities for Action of the Department of Health for 2006;

o That the under-funding of mental health and the lack of mainstream funding for community-led services in west and North Belfast is urgently rectified;

o That a proposal is developed for 24/7 crisis intervention, involving statutory provision with community-based and community-led care and treatment, and accessible facilities;

o That suicide prevention is made a priority Area for Co-operation between the Health Departments in Belfast and Dublin under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council.

Concluding the conference Gerry Adams said:

"Today's conference is a small but I believe important contribution to raising awareness around this tragic issue, as well as making progress. The Minister has said that he too will host a conference in August. All well and good. But what we here today, and the many others beyond this building effected by this issue want to see is delivery; delivery on promises; delivery on commitments; delivery on resources; delivery on funding; delivery on the strategies and policies which will finally begin the difficult work of tackling the growing and serious issue of suicide and self-harm."

An Phoblacht
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