A call for the appointment of an ‘independent champion’ to represent those with mental health difficulties has been made after figures reveal 235 people have lost their life through suicide in the Western Trust area between 2010 and 2014.
The call comes from Chair of the Stormont All Party Group on Mental Health, SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan who asked for the number of deaths registered to suicide in all health and social care trusts from 2010 onwards.
Figures reveal in 2010, in the Western Health and Social Care Trust there were 53 deaths registered to suicide, 39 in 2011, 46 in 2012, 51 in 2013 and in 2014 the figure was 46.
From 2010-2014 the figure for the Belfast Trust was 371, in the Northern area it was 321, whilst in the South Eastern region the number was 261 and in the Southern Trust it the figure was 262.
Mark H Durkan said in the Assembly “a further regional review of mental health services is required to assess the scale of fragmentation that users have experienced, particularly in rural areas”.
“Mental health service provision should be a priority for the Assembly and for the Executive. That’s why those suffering from mental health challenges deserve an independent champion who will keep these issues at the top of agenda,” said Mr. Durkan.
Fidelis Simpson, Suicide Liaison Officer with the Western Trust, said collaborative working with other agencies is important.
“From a Trust perspective, we have to look and see where is it that we should be concerned about, and every suicide that happens we look at what’s going on behind that death, and what the concern is in that community and what support can we provide as a Trust.
“That’s ongoing and something we are always developing, to see what support we can offer that community beyond that death,” said Ms Simpson.
“What we do is offer support to the families and those bereaved by suicide. That’s our first initial support, but we also offer support and training to community groups.”
Among the groups supported by the Trust is Roe Valley Bereaved by Suicide Support Group, which was formed in October 2011 by family members in the Limavady district who lost a loved one to suicide.
Colleen Dall from Roe Valley Bereaved by Suicide Support Group said: “When someone dies by suicide many people are affected, including families, friends and relatives but all too often no one gets the opportunity to talk about how they feel.
“The journey for those left behind after the loss of a loved one can be extremely painful, devastating and traumatic.
“The aim of starting the group was to offer a unique avenue of support at a local level and to help people through what is a very distressing and painful experience.
“The coming together of those similarly bereaved, regardless of when the death occurred, can provide the opportunity to be with other people who can really understand.
“They have been through the same experience and can offer the opportunity to gain strength and understanding from the individuals within the group.
“It is a powerful and constructive way for people to help both themselves and others.”
A member of the group said “meeting regularly with others similarly bereaved helps me keep going”.
“We help each other cope. It helps us to remember that we are not alone,” said the member.
The group meets on the Second Tuesday of every month at 7.30pm at the Wellness Centre, Irish Green Street, Limavady.
For further information contact Colleen Dall on 07725851617.