Brady welcomes suicide prevention relaunch in wake of Newry suicides
Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady has welcomed the Health Minister’s relaunch of a refreshed Life Suicide Prevention Strategy but has criticised the fact that the ministerial sub group on suicide prevention had not met in 18 months.
Speaking to Newry Times, the Newry Armagh MLA and member of the Assembly’s Health Committee said:
“While the relaunching of this initiative is to be welcomed the fact that the ministerial sub group on suicide prevention has not met in 18 months is just not acceptable. I have questioned the Health Minister specifically on how his department is linking up with the Department of Social Development to tackle the problem of suicide. It is crucial that a cross departmental approach is taken particularly in light of the massive differential in rates of suicide between deprived and non deprived areas.”
“This is deeply worrying to me with the introduction of the Tory Welfare Reform Bill which deliberately targets those on benefits even more. I have many constituents who are extremely anxious regarding their finances and I fear that welfare cuts can only have a negative impact on suicide rates among the poor. I asked the Minister to ensure that resources are targeted towards deprived areas to lessen the impact of benefit cuts.”
Brady continued, “Unfortunately Minister Poot’s response to my question, which in my view placed undue focus on young people and alcohol abuse, did not confirm the allocation of resources in areas of high deprivation. This is not good enough, 3 young friends died by suicide in Newry within a few weeks of each other and I support the efforts which the local community is making to highlight the problem such as the fundraising walk and function on 7th July.”
“However legislation and funding are the key elements to really tackling the scourge of suicide and its disastrous effects,” he added.
Despite Brady’s reservations, the message from Health Minister Edwin Poots today was that the refreshed ‘Protect Life Strategy’ will focus efforts on young males in deprived areas.
Poots stated, “It is acknowledged in the refreshed strategy that a person’s risk of suicide is increased by a range of factors including unemployment, alcohol and drugs misuse, educational underachievement, being part of the justice system and mental health illness. The strategy therefore requires a greater commitment from a number of government departments and will mean much closer working arrangements to achieve the actions set out in the strategy.”
The Minister also announced that the Ministerial Co-ordination Group on Suicide should meet every six months. The Minister said: “The Protect Life strategy’s action plan includes a number of actions for other government departments to take forward. I will therefore ensure that this group meets on a regular basis to report on progress against the relevant actions, and also to ensure that suicide prevention remains a priority across government.
He added, “It is important that we maintain the sustained and concerted effort that is required to reduce the high rate of suicide in our society
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