The need for ‘joined up thinking’ to tackle the problem of suicide amongst people with mental health issues has been highlighted by a local MLA.
During November and December North Antrim DUP representative Philip Logan tabled a number of questions about the increasing suicide rates in Northern Ireland.
In his questions he asked the Minister of Health to list the services available for people in North Antrim and throughout Northern Ireland who may be considering self-harm or suicide.
Responding to Mr Logan, the Health Minister detailed the number of 24/7 helpline and associated support services.
In light of her response the DUP man asked for her assessment of the need of earlier intervention.
Mr. Logan said: “Whilst I am thankful that there are agencies and strategies in place – these strategies will need to be followed up by action. In the Health Minister’s response to my question she revealed that 72% of people who die by suicide in the north of Ireland are not known to mental health services.
“That statistic is mind blowing and is one that needs addressed. In North Antrim and indeed across Northern Ireland there are individuals who have had to deal with someone they know and love committing suicide. While each person and circumstance are very different, there needs to be a more constructive discussion on tackling mental health issues for those that suffer and for those that watch them suffer.
“I agree with the Health Minister when she said that early intervention is key, to help children and young people who may be subject to adverse emotional circumstances. Unlike a broken arm which is a visible problem, mental health is largely an invisible suffering that can go unnoticed by those around.
“Encouraging people to be open around mental health issues will, I hope, encourage those to seek the support required at an earlier stage. Our levels of suicide in Northern Ireland are much too high – I believe these issues are closely connected and is something that needs our attention.
“When I get a phone call about a death of this nature in my area my heart breaks for the families. I do not claim to have all the answers or solutions but I will work with people in my area on this issue, those that have been affected and experts in this area to see if we can find solutions on this.”