The suicide rate in East Londonderry has increased, according to a Limavady-based MLA who spoke in a recent debate on suicide at Stormont.
DUP MLA George Robinson said that suicide figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency “make grim reading”.
He said: “One figure shows that, in 2013, there were 303 suicides in Northern Ireland, with 115 in the western part of Northern Ireland, including my home town of Limavady.”
Speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly debate, Mr Robinson said: “As a member of the Health Committee, I congratulate Gary Middleton on securing this debate on a very emotive and important issue and on his very commendable maiden speech.
“I express my heartfelt sympathy to all families who have been affected and left behind by a loved one whose death was in the most tragic circumstances.
“In the debate, we must all be mindful of those relatives.
“I recently saw figures that showed that two bodies were taken from the River Foyle this year. There were numerous operations by Foyle Search and Rescue and its colleagues in Bann Rescue, which saved the lives of other individuals. I express my sincere thanks to those in Foyle Search and Rescue for the difficult and dignified work that they carry out so efficiently and professionally.
“The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency figures make grim reading. One figure shows that, in 2013, there were 303 suicides in Northern Ireland, with 115 in the western part of Northern Ireland, including my home town of Limavady.
“In 2013, there were 56 road deaths, but the resources targeted at minimising the road death figures are wisely spent and value for money, as proven by the fact that, in 2000, there were 171 road deaths. That proves that adequate resources made available to prevention and education campaigns can have a positive effect on highly specific areas of difficulty.
“Can we find similar resources to help to address the appalling figure of people taking their own lives? That would benefit all of Northern Ireland, not just Londonderry.
“I also believe that we may be able to utilise voluntary organisations to help on the ground with a local approach to suicide prevention. Indeed, we should employ every possible resource to tackle that growing problem. Remember that behind every tragedy is a human story and a human being. It is the ongoing effects of tragedy that make me realise how important it is that we address suicide.
“The distress for everyone begins with someone’s decision to end their life, so that has to be the starting point. For me, prevention is better than seeing lives lost and families forever changed by an event that we may be able to avoid.
“In my constituency of East Londonderry, suicides have increased and, as in Londonderry, there are river bridges. Perhaps we should take note of places that are used for this purpose and in some way provide a monitoring service at those locations — CCTV, perhaps, if none is already there.
“The reasons why people end their lives are sometimes told by a note, or the reason may be apparent. If trends can be found as to what leads individuals to end their life, we must try to ensure that preventative help is available at all costs.
“The entire topic of suicide has no easy answer, as individuals appear not to discuss their feelings with families or friends. Could organisations be available to step in? The organisation that comes to mind is Samaritans, whose work has saved many lives over many years. It should be congratulated on its specialised and traumatic work.
“In conclusion, I repeat my thanks to the voluntary organisations and their staff, who do excellent and difficult work. I also appeal to anyone who has suicidal tendencies to come forward and speak to someone — maybe a relative, an organisation, a doctor or a social worker — who, hopefully, can help the individual ”.
Later Mr Robinson stated “I have been appalled at the number of people who have decided upon the ultimate action of ending their own life is tragic and disturbing. I hope that today’s debate will help raise the awareness level of suicides in Northern Ireland and that some means can be found to address the ultimate action some people choose and the devastation that results for loved ones from it.”