Principals in new move to tackle suicides crisis

Major campaign is launched to develop first prevention strategy

By Deborah McAleese

22 January 2005

Belfast Telegraph

A group of Co Down school principals have launched a major campaign to help tackle the rising number of suicides in the area.

They have enlisted the help of local politicians and the Down Lisburn Trust to try and develop Northern Ireland's first co-ordinated suicide prevention strategy.

Principals from 21 primary and secondary schools in the Ballynahinch area initiated the campaign amid major concern about the high number of suicides in the area and right across Northern Ireland.

According to figures, suicide is currently the greatest cause of death for young males under the age of 25.

It also accounts for 25% of all deaths of young people.

"Suicide is a very serious concern and we think there is a real need for a strategic plan for suicide prevention in Northern Ireland," said Mr Hugh McCann, principal of St Colman's High School in Ballynahinch.

"The schools in the area just want to get something done to tackle the problem and would like to encourage some joined-up thinking."

Down District Council has agreed to support the school principals in their campaign and plans to exert pressure on the Down Lisburn Trust to take a leading role in the development of a preventative strategy.

Ballynahinch councillor Anne McAleenan said that society needs to start treating the problem of suicide with "the seriousness it deserves."

"While this is a crisis that faces all of Northern Ireland Ballynahinch recently featured in a television programme as having the highest suicide rate in any rural area," she said."

"It is time to face up to the reality of the suicide problem and take steps to address it."

A spokeswoman for the Down Lisburn Trust said that the trust is actively working on a development strategy which is being headed by trust nurse lecturer Pat McGreevy who is basing a lot of his work on international experiences.