Derry alarm at suicide reports

Police in Derry receive up to 80 calls a month reporting suicide, attempted suicide and self harm in the city, the ‘Journal’ has learned.

A well placed source has revealed that officers in Foyle deal with an average of more than two suicides in the city every month.

“In the last three years there have been roughly 27 or 28 people who have taken their own lives each year,” the source revealed.

More than 70% of the calls received by police are in relation to incidents at the Foyle or Craigavon bridges.

The source further revealed that cluster suicides have occurred in the Derry and Limavady areas in recent times.

“Last year we dealt with a cluster suicide, we identified two deaths that were linked, but identified ten people at immediate risk. There was a death in the Limavady area which we linked to ten other suicides within a period of about eight months - all of the deceased knew each other in some way and the ages ranged from 18 to early 40s.”

According to statistics, the Derry area has one of the highest rates of suicide on the island of Ireland.

Barry McGale, Suicide Liaison Officer at the Western Trust, told the ‘Journal’ that suicide and self harm figures in the region are “concerning”.

“Suicide is an issue that is to the fore for us.”

He said that the number of registered suicides in the area had significantly increased since 2004, although he added that the figures can partly be attributed to “more accurate recording and other improvements” in the collation of information.

“We have always had suicide and always will but we believe we can reduce the numbers. Where we see an increase it means we should double our efforts in prevention,” he added.

He said that the Western Trust remains proactive in attempting to prevent suicide as well as offering support to bereaved families. “We’re the only statutory agency across Ireland and the UK with a dedicated service to support families within 24 hours of a death - an early support system which was put in place 18 months ago.

“We don’t wait for families to come to us, we go out to them in cases of suspected suicide because of the stigma that is traditionally attached.”

Mr McGale urged anyone in need of assistance regarding suicide or self harm to call the 24 hour Lifeline freephone number 08088088000.

Derry also has the highest number of self-harm incidents in the North while being second only to Limerick on the island of Ireland.

Conor McCafferty, manager of the Self Harm Interagency Network (SHINE) at local counselling and support service ZEST, said the Western Trust-funded body dealt with 400 referrals in the past 12 months.

He added that many patients presenting were “repeat” visitors.

However, he pointed out that official figures have shown a decrease of 15% in reported self harm incidents in this area for 2008-09. “I’d be hoping to see another decrease when the 2010 figures are released,” he added.