SDLP Cookstown Councillor Deirdre Mayo has said much more needs to be done to protect vulnerable people who are under extreme financial stress against the dangers of suicide.
Cllr Mayo, who called the figures “shocking”, was speaking as new figures from Suicide Prevention show that since the beginning of this year, 23 people have died by suicide in the Cookstown area, 14 of whom had at least one payday loan.
Cllr Mayo raised the issue at Cookstown District Council on Tuesday where she asked for a minute’s silence for those who took their own lives in the area.
Speaking after Cookstown District Council meeting, she said: “Since the beginning of 2012, 23 people in the Cookstown area have died by suicide. Fifteen were male and eight were female. Seventeen were between the ages of 15 and 35, with the remaining six being over 35.
“Research carried out by Suicide Prevention has linked 14 of these deaths in Cookstown this year to outstanding debts with payday loan companies. These figures are both alarming and shocking.
“Suicide Prevention’s website states that “Suicidal thoughts are distorted thoughts due to stress; they are not real.” That sums it up. Unfortunately, this is not a localised issue, figures show that deaths by suicide have doubled in Northern Ireland between 2004 and 2011, with a total of 289 people taking their own life last year.
“I was approached several weeks ago by Suicide Prevention and asked to bring this to the attention of our council. They have asked that each council in Northern Ireland observe a minute’s silence for all the victims of suicide, which I am glad to say Cookstown District Council unanimously agreed to do.
“I have been horrified to read report after report which shows the increases and the linked reasons for suicide, particularly those under extreme financial stress. We as a society must seek to highlight to vulnerable people the dangers of getting into debt, particularly now at Christmas time where there is a trend to turn to payday lenders, with their extortionate interest rates, some as much as 4,214% APR.
“It greatly saddens me to learn that of the 23 deaths by suicide in the Cookstown area this year, 14 of them have been linked with owing money to payday loan companies. Of those 14, 10 of them had more than one payday loan. What surprises me more is that 11 of these people were unemployed, which begs the question why they were given a loan in the first place?
“We should be doing something more to help people in these difficulties. Agencies like Citizen’s Advice and Debt AdviceNI can help. I am also willing to help anyone who is in difficulty in any way I can.”
For anyone with suicidal thoughts please seek help or ring the Lifeline number 0808 808 8000.