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Suicide to top Exec meeting

By Staff Reporter

The First and Deputy First Ministers have vowed to raise the issue of suicide prevention at today’s meeting of the Northern Ireland Executive.Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness made the pledge  during a meeting with West Belfast MLA Sue Ramsey to discuss the Health Committee Chair’s concerns over the lack of urgency around the ‘Protect Life’ strategy.

The strategy was launched in 2006 with the aim of reducing alarming suicide rates in the North by 15 percent by 2011. A special Ministerial Co-ordination Group on Suicide Prevention was also set up at the strategy’s launch with the aim of bringing ministers together to thrash out how their departments could in the future work together to fight the suicide epidemic.

However, in last week’s Andersonstown News we revealed that, despite a 30 per cent rise in suicide rates in the North since 2006, the Ministerial Group has not met once in the past 18 months.

An update to the Protect Life’ strategy is due to be published in the coming weeks.

Speaking about Monday’s meeting with the First and Deputy First Ministers, Sue Ramsey said “it went very well”.

“I raised the fact that I was deeply annoyed and concerned at that Ministerial Group had not met in such a  long time,” she said.

“I also pointed out that there was a substantial focus by the government on addressing deaths from road traffic accidents yet death through suicide does not seem to have that same focus.  Both of them assured me that, at Executive level, they are committed to the Protect Life strategy and promoting suicide prevention and they agreed to put the issue on the agenda at this week’s Executive meeting.  That’s a really positive development.”

A spokesperson for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) said suicide was a “very important issue for ministers”.

“The ministers agreed to raise this issue at the next Executive meeting under ‘Any Other Business’,” said an OFMDFM spokesperson yesterday.

“They understand that the next meeting of the Ministerial Subgroup on Suicide Prevention is scheduled for later this month following the Executive’s agreement on the refreshing of the ‘Protect Life’ Strategy.”

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