Northern Ireland news

Mark H Durkan calls for taskforce to tackle suicide 'epidemic' in north west

SDLP assembly member Mark H Durkan's sister Gay died by suicide in 2011
Seamus McKinney

SDLP assembly member Mark H Durkan has called for schools and the community sector to be involved a drive to tackle what he describes as a suicide “epidemic”.

Mr Durkan, whose sister Gay died by suicide in 2011, has called for the establishment of a taskforce in response to increasing deaths in the north west.

In a letter to Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly, he said: “It is with a heavy heart that I write to you regarding the rate of suicides and suicide attempts within my constituency.”

In a 12-day period in Derry in July, the Foyle Search and Rescue group rescued five people from the River Foyle.

It is understood a number of those operations involved people who had gone into the river of their own accord.

Mr Durkan has spoken emotionally about the death by suicide of his sister, saying her death came as a huge shock to everyone who knew her.

He said suicide causes “devastation to families and communities”.

In his letter to Mr Pengelly, he said: “I would be grateful if you would consider the establishment of a suicide prevention taskforce here in Foyle, comprising of senior departmental representation, WHSCT (Western Health and Social Care Trust), PHA (Public Health Agency) and local stakeholders, including the C and V (community and voluntary) sector who provide so much valuable and vital support in this area.

“We should also, in my opinion, include representatives from the education sector and explore with them the implementation of a consistent and robust model of awareness and resilience training in our schools.”

He added: “The establishment of this forum itself would demonstrate a desire to address what almost seems like a suicide epidemic here."

* If you are in distress and need to talk to someone, you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000

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