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Ulster Research Probes NI Suicide Rate

18 November 2010

A more pro-active multiagency ‘outreach’ approach to preventing suicide is needed, according to research released today.
Researchers at the University of Ulster teamed up with QUB and the University of Maine, USA, to undertake research funded by the Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency.

Young men who had made a serious attempt to end their own lives were interviewed with regard to the reasons they wanted to go on living and how services could help them do so.
Professor Hugh McKenna, one of the lead researchers on the project and Dean of Ulster’s Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, said that around 150 people in Northern Ireland end their lives through suicide each year.

In the years 1999-2008 there was a 64 per cent increase in the number of suicides in Northern Ireland, mostly among men in the age group the research focused on.

“This project is one of several at the University of Ulster that is examining the issue of suicide. It is extremely important that we take note of the views expressed by these young men in this research.

We would like to thank them for participating in this study.  They have firsthand experience of this very serious problem in our society and have clear views on how this can be addressed.”
“They shared with us the reasons why they attempted suicide and more importantly the things that helped them want to continue living”.
These young people, through their stories, can help shape mental health services for the better.”
Among a package of measures, the young men interviewed said that healthcare services could make better use of social networking technologies familiar with younger age groups to support suicide prevention strategies.
They also said that an on the ground approach of having informal ‘drop-in’ suicide centres allowing mental health professionals to develop meaningful interpersonal relationships with suicidal young men would be effective.
However, greater issues exist in how to make young people aware of the services currently available and to destigmatise suicide. Most do not know about the telephone help lines and community groups that can help them deal with their problems.
Welcoming the research findings Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey said: “This is a unique and invaluable study, which will help us in our fight against suicide.  It is important to collect and analyse data and use it to target mental health and suicide prevention services at those who need help.  This research highlights the importance of building stronger emotional resilience and coping skills amongst young men, and of providing prevention services that they are more willing to access.  

"It also underscores the fundamental importance of positive, close relationships with family and friends in protecting against suicide.  Tackling suicide in our society remains a priority for my Department and I remain fully committed to providing as much support as possible to address the root causes of suicide.”

Commenting on the research, Dr Carolyn Harper, Executive Medical Director/Director of Public Health, PHA said: “This work has provided vital information, from those who really know the impact of suicide and what is needed to help prevent it. The findings will inform future mental health service development, targeting areas that have been identified as helpful, appropriate and accessible, by those who know best.  We are greatly indebted to those who participated in this research and wish them well in their continued recovery, health and well being.

“If anyone needs confidential support services and advice they should call Lifeline: 0808 808 8000.  This is a free helpline service available 24/7.  You can also access the website"