Action is needed on ‘suicide epidemic’

Catherine McBennett from the Niamh Louise Foundation, charity patron Malachi Cush and chair Anne Donaghy
Catherine McBennett from the Niamh Louise Foundation, charity patron Malachi Cush and chair Anne Donaghy

A Tyrone-based mental health charity has called on the Secretary of State to intervene to tackle Northern Ireland’s suicide epidemic.

The Niamh Louise Foundation, one of the region’s most established suicide prevention and bereavement charities, was formed following the death by suicide of Tyrone girl Niamh, at the age of just 15. The charity works with a range of voluntary and statutory agencies to reduce the numbers of people taking their own lives in Northern Ireland – the worst affected region in the UK for suicide rates.

Niamh’s mum, Catherine McBennett, stepfather James, and Anne Donaghy, now Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, co-founded the Foundation on the 2nd of February 2006 - what should have been Niamh’s 16th birthday.

Ms Donaghy said: “We are in the grip of a suicide epidemic in Northern Ireland and those most in need are being failed. The time for tokenism around suicide and mental health issues is over. The Protect Life 2 draft strategy continues to gather dust.

“Northern Ireland urgently needs a fit for purpose suicide strategy so we can properly resource support services and networks for some of the most vulnerable members of society. I would appeal to the Secretary of State Karen Bradley to personally intervene to explore all options around how this can be progressed as a matter of urgency during the current Stormont impasse.

“It is unacceptable that we stand still and do nothing when we are faced with such horrendous hurt and pain within our communities. The prevalence of mental health issues is 25% higher here than any other region, however, our funding for mental health is significantly lower. “