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Society must reach out to vulnerable

SUICIDE and homelessness are two of the most worrying aspects of modern society in Ireland. In today’s edition we report on two deaths, one by suicide and the other when a homeless man was found dead in Belfast city centre yesterday morning. Although on the face of it they are two completely different problems, there are similarities in the issues faced by those trying to help people with depression and with the rough sleeping population.

Our page-one story carries an appeal from the brother of a man who died by suicide. He urges people to reach out and talk about their worries. It sounds simple but there are obviously many victims of suicide who felt they could not step forward to discuss their issues.

There are state and voluntary agencies to which those with suicidal thoughts can go to discuss their problems. But it is, for the most part, up to the at-risk person to take the first step and to confide in someone, to seek help.

It is not dissimilar from the problems faced by those who attempt to help rough sleepers. It is important to note that there are many different reasons for people to end up on the streets. The financial crash brought homelessness into focus, particularly in the south of Ireland. But there have always been other individuals who ended up sleeping in doorways for a variety of reasons. Organisations offer beds to rough sleepers and of course many take up the offer. However, some do not. This may be because of mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse or the fact that some individuals are unable to live within the rules set out, or that they fear being bullied.

The cause of death of the young man found in Belfast city centre has not yet been established but it is only common sense that as the weather turns colder, those spending nights sleeping in the open with little more than a blanket to protect them are at even more risk.

It is important that society reaches out to people who feel such a sense of hopelessness that they consider ending their lives. We must also reach out to those who live a very dangerous life on the streets. We must attempt to understand the problems faced by both groups and rather than being judgemental, try to find solutions to these issues.

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