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Ulster University Professor calls for action to support those in suicidal pain

Suicide is preventable, and whilst England, Scotland and Wales have seen a steady decline in suicide rates, the rate in NI remains high, accounting for the deaths of around 300 people annually.

In a public lecture for World Suicide Prevention Day, “Understanding suicide in NI: applying psychology to save lives”, Ulster University Professor Siobhan O’Neill will outline the findings from a series of studies on suicide in NI. The research includes new evidence that those who die by suicide are more likely to have had recent contact with health services, and have had a prescription for pain or mental health medication. The findings are part of a policy and practice research briefing that will be launched at the event.

Suicides happen when people in despair lose the ability to think of solutions, believing wrongly, that they have no other option but to end their lives. As well as treating underlying mental illness, psychological interventions can help people find solutions and ways of resolving the events and circumstances that lead to suicidal pain.

Professor O’Neill said:

When we analysed heath care records we found that the use of pain medication is also more common among those who take their own lives adding more weight to the evidence that physical pain and suicide are connected.

“Contact with health care providers offers an opportunity to provide suicide prevention interventions, and I am therefore calling for the training of health care providers, particularly GPs and pharmacists, in suicide interventions such as safety planning.

“It is unacceptable that the revised Northern Ireland suicide prevention strategy, Protect Life 2, cannot, at present, be implemented due to the current impasse at Stormont. Our research shows that people with trauma relating to the Troubles, and adverse childhood experiences are more at risk and it appears that the risk is being transmitted to the next generation. We need a strategic approach and leadership to address the issue, and a tailored approach for Northern Ireland, which gives consideration to our unique circumstances and history.”

Tonight’s lecture is hosted by the University’s Institute for Mental Health Sciences and the British Psychological Society, and will be held in the University’s Belfast campus at 6pm.

Lecture can be booked through: https://www.bps.org.uk/events/understanding-suicide-northern-ireland-and-applying-psychology-save-lives