The Public Health Agency spent over £200,000 on initiatives to address the problem of suicide on the River Foyle over the past five years, it’s been revealed.
It funded rescue services, CCTV surveillance, and research into why the Foyle Bridge is a particular focus for suicide attempts.
Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey asked the Minister of Health: “To outline all spend by his Department on anti-suicide measures specific to the River Foyle, in the last five years.”
The Department of Health responded: “The PHA manages the Department’s allocation of funding for suicide prevention services across Northern Ireland. In the last five years the Agency has allocated £205,000 on direct initiatives to address the problem of suicide on the river Foyle. In addition a further £28,000 has been invested in an investigation into technical options to improve safety on the Foyle Bridge.”
The latter expenditure involved an investigation by Hyder Consulting (UK) Ltd.
With regard to the former, Foyle, Search and Rescue received £125,000 for its core costs and £3,655 for what was described as “Life Preservation on the Foyle - Volunteer training on water survival techniques and purchase of ‘dry suits.’”
The charity also received £9,820 for a“Suicide Prevention Project - New radio system to help co-ordinate responses to suicidal individuals and/or intoxicated persons near the river or the bridges; and purchase of two jet skis to improve response times and access shallow waters for recovery and rescue.”
And it got £21,043 to “improve volunteer recruitment, training, community awareness, and awareness of the water safety.”
Meanwhile, £5,000 went to a Ulster University study into why the Foyle Bridge has become a focus for suicide attempts. CTRIC got £10,000 to examine how new technology could be used to address health improvement. The Council got £20k in a “contribution to a joint suicide prevention programme with the Council, including set up costs associated with the implementation of CCTV cameras on the Foyle Bridge.” And Derry Healthy Cities got £10k for a “business Case to examine innovative solutions to address how the bridges and rivers could be used to enhance and promote health and wellbeing.”
Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency (PHA) said: “If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.
“This 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. You can also access the Lifeline website at www.lifelinehelpline.info
“More information on looking after your mental health and the support which is available across Northern Ireland can be found at www.mindingyourhead.info.”