The suicide rate for the Limavady district is now one of the highest in the North having more than doubled in the past five years.
The latest Public Health Agency (PHA) figures show those taking their own life locally are higher than Derry city and Belfast, and only Moyle has a slightly greater percentage.
Between 2005 and 2009 the rates of suicide per percentage of the local population rocketed from 11.7 to 23.5.
SDLP councillor Gerry Mullan, who along with other councillors and officers from Limavady Borough Council, has participated in suicide prevention work, said: “This area has been badly affected by suicide and it has been a mixture of young people and middle-aged people as far as I can recall. I think, personally, it has been down to a mixture of reasons. Possibly because we live in an area of serious deprivation and with the economic downturn young people don’t have the same opportunities for education, employment, self fulfilment. There has also been the use of illegal drugs, such a mephedrone which has been a serious problem. It’s a very depressing time, particularly for the young and those who are older; those who enjoyed the benefits of the boom period and now find themselves unable to cope with their current financial situation. In my own opinion, all this has had a big effect on mental health and it’s very worrying.”
Niall Murphy from L.A.T.C.H, a mental health support organisation based in Dungiven for youths aged between 12 and 18, said what is most striking is how the suicide rate doubled between 2008-09 for men, from 23.2 to 46.9. Stressing there is no firm evidence, he said there seemed to be a big coincidence between the increase in suicide rates and the economic downturn.
The goal of L.A.T.C.H is to help youths, especially young males, throughout the North West build up life coping skills so when they face an issue they are able to ask for help and accept it is okay to do so.
Mr. Murphy said women cope with things differently than men and, often times, are able to deal with things more effectively, “but there is this underlying thing that men don’t cry, that their coping strategies are different and detrimental to men. Our aim, in particular with young people, is to help them build their life coping skills at an early age which will help them when they are older and hopefully pass them on too.”
Sinn Féin Colr. Cathal Ó hÓisin expressed “serious concern”.
“It is an extremely worrying trend that we need to tackle. As a former vice chair of LATCH (Listening and Talking Can Help), I know only too well the sorrow and grief that comes along with someone taking their own life. I also know from taking place in suicide awareness charity delivering self confidence and self esteem courses for young people some of the problems that arise,” he said. “I am also confident that if we get the correct resources we can target those at greatest risk and get them help but I am concerns that those funds are not forthcoming.
“I am calling on the Western Health Board to take this issue seriously so we can begin to reverse the trend of growing suicide rate in the Limavady area.”
There are several support agencies including Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 if you need confidential support services and advice. This is a free helpline service available 24/7. You can access the website www.lifelinehelpline.info