Hundreds of experts in suicide prevention from across the world will gather in Derry next week for what will be the largest conference ever staged in the city.
The 30th World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) will take place over five days from September 17 to 21, with around 700 international and local professionals and experts expected to attend.
Earlier this week, Creggan Community Collective staged an event focusing on mental health and addiction after a Service of Remembrance marking World Suicide Prevention Day.
The conference also comes just days after the NI Department of Health here published its new ‘Protect Life 2’ Suicide Prevention Strategy.
The strategy sets out what the Department will do to reduce suicide and self-harm over the next five years, with additional funding pledged.
Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, said: “Suicide is preventable and not inevitable, yet almost every day in Northern Ireland a person takes their own life. Whilst suicide rates here have remained relatively stable over the last decade the level is without a doubt unacceptably high. How we address this is a challenge for all in government and society.
“The challenge for ‘Protect Life 2’ will be to substantially reduce suicide rates by 10% by 2024, in line with WHO advice. One of the aims is to deliver suicide prevention services and support, with a particular focus on deprived areas where self-harm rates are highest and suicide rates are over 3.5 times higher than those in the least deprived areas.”
SDLP health spokesperson Mark H Durkan welcomed the publication but lamented that this was not actioned sooner.
The MLA for Foyle said: “It is a disgrace that it has taken so long to get to this point and that is directly attributable to the lack of a functioning government in Stormont.
“How many outcomes might have been changed and how many lives might have been saved, had this piece of work been published sooner?”
Sinn Féin councillor Sandra Duffy has also called for its full implementation.
The local health spokesperson said: “Suicide has a devastating impact on families and communities. I welcome the objective to reduce deaths by suicide by ten percent. However, we must remember that all suicides are preventable.
“The Trusts are working towards a zero suicide approach and the rolling out of street triage and crisis de-escalation programmes. The focus should now be on the full implementation of the strategy and the delivery of services in partnership with communities and support organisations.”
The conference in Derry next week was secured back in 2017 following extensive work by Visit Derry and its Conference Ambassadors Professor Siobhan O’Neill (Ulster University), Barry McGale (Suicide Bereavement UK) and Professor Rory O’Connor (University of Glasgow) in partnership with Visit Derry and Abbey Conference & Events.
Councillors were told at this week’s Business & Culture Committee that Derry had been one of four shortlisted destinations including, Rome, Vienna and Piran (Slovenia).