East Belfast Alliance representatives have welcomed efforts to better co-ordinate mental health and suicide prevention services in East Belfast after a public meeting held in the wake of a growing number of deaths by suicide in the local area.
Naomi Long MP and Chris Lyttle MLA stated the meeting, hosted by the East Belfast Community Development Agency today (Wednesday) at Belmont Tower in East Belfast, was constructive in confronting the tragic issue of suicide in the east of the city.
Mrs Long, who recently wrote to Health Minister Edwin Poots over concerns that the issue was not being given an appropriate amount of resources following a meeting with the East Belfast-based Survivors of Suicide group, said action was needed to ensure the rates of death by suicide did not continue to grow.
“A stigma is often still attached to suicide in East Belfast and further afield, and this allows the very real problem to bubble under the surface. It means essential work, including supporting GPs, ensuring enough bed space is available for those who need it and supporting those who have been bereaved, has been allowed to slip.
“The majority of people who attempt suicide have never been previously diagnosed with a mental health condition. Therefore more resources also need to be put into dealing with awareness-raising programmes so people can spot the signs. It is vital suicide research, prevention and awareness is prioritised by the Department of Health and other agencies working in this field.”
Mr Lyttle said a joined-up approach was crucial to dealing with the issue.
“My thoughts and prayers are with anyone affected by recent events. Emotional wellbeing is a complex issue and requires a comprehensive response. I commissioned research at the Northern Ireland Assembly which presents clear evidence of the need in East Belfast and it is vital that all elected representatives, statutory bodies, community and church groups work together to secure the best mental health and suicide prevention services possible for our constituency.
“We must also give people opportunities, and I welcome the Minister for Employment and Learning’s multi-million pound investment in a Northern Ireland Youth Employment Scheme that will provide work experience, training and full time employment for out of work young people with travel and childcare costs and a £5000 subsidy for participating employers as of September.
“There is a clear commitment to respond to this issue in a sustained and united manner, and to give people in East Belfast hope for their future.”