HEALTH MINISTER REVEALS 15 SUICIDES IN BELFAST OVER LAST THREE MONTHS

Health Minster Edwin Poots revealed shocking suicide figures for Belfast.

SHOCKING figures released today reveal that 15 people have taken their own lives in Belfast since July.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said the death rate by suicide is twice as high in deprived areas of Northern Ireland but added that work is ongoing to alleviate the problem.

He also disclosed that almost 500 people went to hospital emergency rooms in Belfast with deliberate self-harm this year.

Two weeks ago Belfast Daily revealed that a young mother took her own life.

Leanne Toner, from the Lagmore area of west Belfast, was only 24 when she decided to end her life on October 15.

What was hard for family and friends to understand is that she never shared her deepest thoughts, even though her mum lived just next door.

A resident said: “People are very shocked. Leanne has left two young children behind.

“We don’t know why she did it. But then you really don’t know what goes through peoples’s minds.”

Earlier this month, a support group revealed that seven people had taken their own lives in east Belfast within the space of ten days.

The minister released the disturbing figures today in response to a question from Sinn Fein MLA Sue Ramsey.

He said: “”Sadly, this is reflective of trends experienced over the last five years and work, therefore, is ongoing to address the high levels of suicide in areas of Belfast.

“This includes awareness raising, promotion of help-seeking behaviour, bereavement support, training for ‘gatekeepers’, and provision of counselling and crisis support.”

A local charity believes socio-economic factors are largely to blame for the deaths.

Sharon Quinn from Lighthouse said some support groups are facing budget cuts and a lack of resources, but added that they’re working tirelessly.

She said: “It does hinder the work that could be done in terms of employing staff, whom you would like to have available to provide a constant response but it is not always possible.”

The Health Department funds a free telephone support line and provides around £7m per year towards suicide prevention.

However the number of incidents has increased over recent years – from 138 suicides in 1997 for all of NI to 289 in 2011, with 74 taking place in Belfast.

People from deprived parts of the city are particularly vulnerable, with poor general health and few employment prospects.

And there has recently been seven suspected suicides in east Belfast in 10 days.

Research from Queen’s University has also stated that survivors of some of the worst years of the Troubles are also more prone to taking their own lives.

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