Leading article

Preventing suicide needs a wide-ranging approach

Health minister Robin Swann, writing in this newspaper as part of a special report on mental health, has a three word mantra for every day he is in his post - suicide is preventable.

He is absolutely right and must be commended for making this huge public health issue a key focus of his tenure.

Mr Swann says it is an issue that should also be a constant in the minds of everyone in positions of leadership and influence in our community.

We are all well aware of the problem of suicide in our society, the shocking toll of death in Northern Ireland and the importance of early intervention and practical support.

The minister rightly points to the many factors that are linked to suicide, self-harm and mental health issues, including deprivation, family problems, social isolation, drug and alcohol misuse as well as the impact of our troubled past.

Yesterday we also heard from the parents of children who took their own lives after becoming addicted to gambling. Research shows there are between 250 and 650 suicides across the UK every year linked to gambling disorders.

It is essential for Stormont to listen to the concerns of those most directly affected by suicide. Their insight is absolutely invaluable in the effort to understand the triggers that lead to someone taking their own life.

As we reported on Monday and Tuesday, there is vital work going on to help prevent tragic deaths, from the overarching

strategic approach of officials and health professionals to the support groups and volunteers targeting those in crisis.

Schools are also part of this process, with the introduction of a range of programmes aimed at improving children's emotional wellbeing.

Nurture groups are a short term early intervention to address barriers to learning arising from social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

But while it is recognised as a cost-effective way of improving mental health, nurture groups are funded in just 31 primary schools with others meeting the £70,000 annual cost from their own very stretched budgets.

It is clear these groups are making a real difference to youngsters and is the type of initiative that should be encouraged and financially supported.

As Mr Swann says, suicide can be prevented but it will take commitment and action.

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Leading article