Campaigner challenges Minsiter’s suicide scare
A LEADING suicide prevention campaigner has moved to reassure people living in deprived areas of Dungannon District that they are not significantly more vulnerable to suicide after controversial remarks made by the Health Minister Edwin Poots.
Residents in deprived areas such as Coalisland South are three times more likely to die from suicide, claimed the minister, who was speaking last Monday on World Suicide Prevention Day.
Minister Poots said unemployment rates further affected those most vulnerable.
About 300 people a year are taking their own lives in Northern Ireland, the DUP MLA has said, almost six times the rate of death due to road traffic accidents.
However, Catherine McBennett, co-founder of the Niamh Louise Foundation, critised the minister for making the remarks.
She said it was wrong to directly link one factor such as poverty to suicide.
Over the last six years, the Niamh Louise Foundation has been working hard to tackle the growing problem of suicide in the Mid-Ulster area.
Latest figures show that in Mid-Ulster almost one in four deaths in people under 45 was attributed to suicide, one of the highest rates in Northern Ireland. In South Tyrone the rate was one in seven.
Since 2003, the overall suicide rate in the local district has more than trebled from 0.7 percent of all deaths, to 2.3%.
Catherine said: “The work studied and researched by our foundation has shown that there is not one cause for suicide. There are many factors that can contribute to poor mental health, depression and thoughts of suicide.
“I would like to reassure people living in deprived areas not to be afraid because of the minister’s comments. They represent a dangerous train of thought.
“Poor mental health affects people of all social classes and backgrounds, and suicidal thoughts can also affect those who are financially secure.
“With the right support and intervention, people who experience poor mental health can recover and lead happy, productive lives.”
Catherine added that the Niamh Louise Foundation will be making recommnendations to the health minister and his department based on the personal experiences of local people affected by suicide.
“We will be devising a policy brief for the department as the result of a book of personal experiences we have compiled entitled ‘The Last Taboo’.”
The book is due to be launched on October 10.
The Níamh Louise Foundation was founded in February 2006 following the death of Níamh Louise McKee, who died by suicide aged 15. It aims to implement the ‘Protect Life Strategy for Northern Ireland’ at ground level in local communities to reduce the numbers of people taking their own lives.
The main activities of this locally based charity is to provide suicide awareness, prevention, intervention and postvention services across the areas of Armagh, Tyrone and further afield, particularly to rural areas which can be very hard to reach and highly stigmatised and very reluctant to seek help.
Minister Poots said factors contributing to suicide rates were among the biggest challenges facing the executive.
“In 2010 and 2011, over 600 people took their own lives - this is a startlingly high figure,” Mr Poots said.
He said factors which increased suicide rates, especially in the at-risk group, included alcohol and drugs misuse, educational under-achievement, being part of the justice system and mental health illness.
Mr Poots said studies indicated that a 1% increase in unemployment was met with a corresponding 0.79% increase in suicide.
“It is therefore important to consider how the adverse psychological impact of redundancy and unemployment might be mitigated,” he said.
“The executive is facing up the challenge of reducing suicide rates.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Dungannon
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 9 C
Wind Speed: 22 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 5 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North