There needs to be more innovative thinking when it comes to suicide prevention, a Commons debate heard today.
MPs discussed a motion brought by South Antrim representative William McCrea of the DUP which called for more awareness on the issue and a change in attitude on the matter. He told those in attendance that suicide is a major public health problem that is largely preventable,
In particular Mr McCrea said websites which provide information on suicide methods are especially dangerous.
“In recent years there have been several widely-reported cases of individuals taking their own lives having used websites that have provided explicit information on suicide methods or have been used to facilitate suicide pacts.
“I recognise that this is a particularly complex matter and the challenges it presents are indeed multiple. Nonetheless, they are challenges that must be overcome for children have the right to be protected from all forms of abuse, violence and harm.
“Through a co-ordinated approach we must effectively address the issues impacting on emotional health so that we reach a point where suicide sites will no longer be attractive to vulnerable individuals, making them naturally obsolete and unattractive to view.
“We need to think innovatively about what more can be done across government and society to reduce suicide rates. The emphasis on suicide prevention must be maintained because once a suicide is completed, very sadly there is no cure.”
Mr McCrea agreed with Conservative MP Tracey Crouch that ex-prisoners are particularly vulnerable. And Sammy Wilson, a party colleague of Mr McCrea, said those involved in drug use are also vulnerable to suicidal tendencies.
Mr McCrea said deliberate self-harm is also an increasingly worrying issue.
Asked by Conservative MP Bob Stewart whether he believes there may be a link between suicide rates and the involvement of some people in paramilitary activity over the years Mr McCrea said it is something that must be considered.
“Certainly, for many people who were involved in such activities—perhaps they were drawn into them and now, unfortunately, must live with the consequences for the rest of their lives—guilt can be a leading factor pushing them towards suicide.
“The Bamford review on mental health promotion, published in Northern Ireland in May 2006, reinforced the need to prevent suicide. It found that in the 25 years from 1969 to 1994, more people died by suicide than as a result of the troubles in our Province.”
In reference to statistics for suicides here compared to England Foyle MP Mark Durkan informed those attending the debate that, as of five years ago, Northern Ireland does not hold inquests on suicide, unless they are in the public interest or requested by the family.
He said: “That means that there has been more sensitivity than the false sensitivity accorded to narrative verdicts, which then lead to flawed statistics.”
Welsh MP Madeleine Moon said she would like to look into this policy as a way to avoid the trauma of family members sitting through details of an inquest sometimes a year after their loved one has died.
“I was not aware of that development in Northern Ireland, and I would like to spend some time examining it. The root trauma for many families who have experienced such a death is sometimes renewed, along with the publicity, up to a year later, which makes it very difficult for them to cope and which sets them back in the progress that they have made in grieving.”