The north west’s new supercouncil is currently looking at how to take forward a ‘zero number’ approach to suicide, it has emerged.
The news comes after Independent Derry-Strabane Councillor Dee Quigley called for an update on a motion he proposed back in November calling on the council to take on a central role in tackling the problem.
Mr Quigley, who lost his own nephew Andrew (19) to suicide last year, said that the issue needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency both locally and regionally in order to try and prevent yet more deaths.
His previous motion mooted that Derry City and Strabane District Council “takes a zero number approach to suicides in the new council term and adapts new and innovative strategies and projects that are measurable... and that the new corporate plan includes these initiatives in a clear and concise manner”.
The motion was unanimously backed by councillors.
A Derry City Council spokeswoman said yesterday that the matter was “currently being considered in the development process for the Corporate Plan, which will be brought before members in the next few weeks.”
Mr Quigley also called for the Department for Health to take forward research into the relationship between suicide, mental health and a lack of drug and alcohol services, and to examine taking forward an overarching strategy.
He said: “I would like the Department for Health to put the resources behind such a strategy and to do proper investigations, research with all the service providers, families and young people themselves to see what their needs are, because if there are needs out there they are not being met. This is going to be an ongoing issue unless something is done about it.
“We want to see the number of suicides reduced in this town because it is a serious public heath issue. It’s causing massive distress to families and communities out there. It is up to us as a society- especially if it is to do with mental health or what it is that is causing these problems, what is it that is causing these suicides- to take this on.”
Colr. Quigley added: “How many recorded incidents have been taken through the doors of Accident &Emergency? How many recorded incidents are there with organisations like HURT in Derry and Foyle Search and Rescue? What have they been dealing with?
“There are a lot of statistics there and we need that information to say: ‘here is what is happening, what is being done about it?’”
Colr. Quigley has been at the helm of a massive campaign for a local detox centre. As part of this, a petition with 52,000 signatures was handed over to previous Health Minister Edwin Poots last year.
He said that while the campaign at grass roots level had shown the strength of feeling locally on the issue, there needed to be buy-in from the two governments.
He added that he would also be making representations to the Irish government in Dublin over possible cross-border use of the Whiteoaks facility, which lies just over the border.
“We need joined up thinking; a different approach. We need the information that is out there to be gathered from statutory and voluntary services. It needs to bring in everyone.
“Hopefully in the council we can make the space available for that conversation to happen.”