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Health Minister launches consultation on strategy for suicide prevention

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Health Minister Michelle O’Neill today launched a consultation on Protect Life 2 – a strategy for suicide prevention in the north of Ireland.

The consultation coincides with the 2016 World Suicide Prevention Day with a theme of ‘Connect, Communicate, Care’ – three words at the heart of suicide prevention.

The Minister said: “An average of 274 people die by suicide each year here. This is an unacceptable statistic, and a personal tragedy for all those families who have lost loved ones to suicide.  Each life lost is one life too many.

“I want to encourage everyone, particularly those organisations across the voluntary and community sector, who work tirelessly to provide help and support to people in need to contribute to the future direction of the Protect Life 2 Strategy. Suicide prevention is a huge challenge to our society and as Minister I am committed to  a consultation process that is meaningful and engages everyone.” 

Michelle O’Neill added:  “The new Protect Life 2 strategy aims to improve the identification and response to suicidal behaviour and to prevent suicide by people in crisis. There will be a particular focus on repeat self-harm; and supporting those bereaved by suicide.”

The Minister continued: “There remains a strong health inequality aspect to suicide. The suicide rate in the 20% most deprived areas is three times the rate in the least deprived areas. The incidence of self harm is four times higher in the most deprived areas.  I am committed to tackling inequalities and I will ensure that resources continue to be focused on reducing these differentials.

“In addition, men continue to be three times more likely to die by suicide than women. We will therefore continue to focus our efforts on the areas of greatest need and to use evidence-based interventions, treatment and support. Suicide is not just an issue for my Department; it affects us all and responsibility for it lies across government. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Ministerial Co-ordination Group on Suicide Prevention and to work collaboratively in order to meet the challenge of reducing suicide rates.”

Concluding, Minister O’Neill said: “I would encourage people to seek help if they have concerns about their mental wellbeing. Anyone who is in distress or despair can contact the Lifeline Helpline on 0808 808 8000.”

Lifeline is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The consultation can be accessed at https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/consultations/protect-life-2-strategy-suicide-prevention-north-ireland and will be open until 5.00pm on Friday 4 November.

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