Thursday, September 10, 2009

World Suicide Prevention Day

A section of the large number of people who attended Thursday mornings rally at the City Hall

September 10 09 World Suicide Prevention Day

Thursday was a beautiful morning in Belfast. Families bereaved through suicide had organised a ‘Walk of the darkness’ event at Belfast City Hall to raise awareness around suicide and suicide prevention.

Family groups, supported by activists on this issue, walked from several locations across the city, including the Shankill, Springhill, and Stormont.

At the City Hall ballons were released, songs were sang and poems were read reflecting the pain of relatives and their hope that through their actions they can save lives. It was a moving and emotional event held as the darkness gave way to the dawn.

Bobby Cosgrove of Survivors of Suicide from east Belfast, whose son died 21 years ago, revealed that this summer, between the beginning of July and the middle of August 30 people had taken their own lives in Belfast.

Suicide has taken a heavy toll in Ireland, north and south.

Figures in the south reveal that 424 people took their own lives in 2008. New figures show that in the north 282 suicides occurred last year. West and North Belfast each recorded the highest numbers with 22 deaths from suicide in the west of the City and 20 deaths from suicide in the north.

This means that suicide claimed 706 lives in Ireland last year – more than were killed in road accidents.

The impact on families and communities is devastating. The reality is that all sections and all generations of our society our affected, from the very young to the very old, and in rural and urban areas.

These shocking figures do not reveal the complete extent of this problem. Thousands more are admitted to hospitals every year as a result of self-harm and many cases go unreported.

A recent report in the south disclosed that there were 11,700 cases of deliberate self-harm presented at Accident and Emergency departments last year, with the biggest increase among men.

Despite this less money and fewer resources are allocated to tackling this issue.

There has been some progress in the north in recent years following the re-establishment of the political institutions.

The Department of Health in Belfast announced in April that it has allocated £6.7 million in this financial year for the implementation of the Suicide Prevention Strategy ‘Protect Life – A Shared Vision’, including £3.5 million for the very successful Lifeline service.

While there has also been some progress in the south it is clear that suicide awareness and prevention is not receiving the priority it demands. The government spends 10 times more money on road safety measures despite the fact that more people die as a result of suicide. The Irish government has also failed to live up to its commitments to reinvest money raised from the sale of land housing psychiatric hospitals into mental health.

Earlier this year an Oireachtas sub-committee report on this issue revealed that only 7 out of 33 recommendations it had made three years ago had been implemented.

What progress has been achieved is largely as a result of the unwavering determination of the bereaved families to highlight this issue and to demand change. Their strength in the face of this awful hurt is remarkable. They have been to the fore in helping others. They deserve not only our respect and praise; they deserve practical assistance and public investment.

They have been responsible for the establishment of a range of voluntary based organisations which have undoubtedly saved many lives.

They provide support for bereaved families, tackle the stigma of suicide which still exists, and have created safe and empathetic environments where those at risk can find help.

While suicide is now better understood than before, and it is accepted that suicide victims and survivors should be treated with compassion and care, the fact remains that only a tiny proportion of the budgets north and south are devoted to mental health.

Mental Health remains the Cinderella of the health services. And mental health treatment and services, especially those which are community-based, are still not taken seriously. This needs to be rectified.

Sinn Féin Councillor Charlene O Hara; Jennifer McCann MLA; Gerry Adams MP and Councillor Fre McCann MLA who attended Thursday mornings City Hall rally.


Timothy Dougherty said...

Well Gerry , this is why I come back. The problem of the high suicide rate in Derry had got my interest a few years ago. I subject close to my concern, in general of the problems, on the Island,a ‘Walk of the darkness’ wonderful idea , I been in contact for a few years both north and south on the issues.shocking figures ,for sure and impact on families and their communities . devastating in full. This Issue did bring me back and back to Ireland for research and studies a area of great importance.As ABRAHAM LINCOLN said:"As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." All Ireland needs to live through this time, for a better life to come.

Anonymous said...

Calling on all nationalists to support the PSNI''The former head of the police force in the North was accused of claiming a man beaten to death by loyalists may have been accidentally killed by his own family, an inquiry heard today.

It was also suggested that Sir Ronnie Flanagan claimed Robert Hamill’s sister Diane had an agenda to “discredit” the force.

Sir Ronnie said the record from an unnamed British government official presented to the Hamill inquiry was completely inaccurate and disgraceful.

Mr Hamill, 25, was attacked in Portadown in April 1997.

The minute from an unnamed government official said: “I generally found the Chief Constable in a pretty defensive and critical mood.

“In particular, he commented that Hamill’s death could have been caused by his own family cradling his head in a way that led to oxygen starvation.”

Catholic Mr Hamill died 11 days after he was kicked and beaten by a loyalist mob in the centre of Portadown. The inquiry is investigating if there was police malpractice in the killing.

The allegation linking the victim’s family to his death was part of a minute of a conversation of July 24, 2000 but the official, who was carrying out a review, cannot be named.

Sir Ronnie said: “To suggest that Robert’s death was due to anything other than the beating he received at the hands of his assailants is absolutely disgraceful.”

He denied saying that Diane Hamill had an agenda to discredit the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

“I think she has an agenda to find out exactly what happened to her brother,” he added.

Sir Ronnie admitted at the Belfast inquiry that relations between nationalists and police needed to improve and said it was one of his priorities on taking up office.

Before Mr Hamill’s death, the controversial Drumcree Orange Order parade had been allowed down the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown after an overwhelming display of aggression from loyalists.

Sir Ronnie, who now lives in the Middle East, was Chief Constable of the RUC and then the Police Service of Northern Ireland between 1996 and 2002.

Helen said...

Lesbian and gay young people are particularly at risk of self harm and suicide often as a result of the homophobia and isolation they experience. Many young gay people feel they have no safe space where they will be accepted. Schools are beginning to recognise the crucial role they must play in challenging homophobia and creating a safe inclusive environment where all young people can thrive, but progress is slow. Caitriona Ruane has been very supportive of the work; check out a toolkit for schools