New centres to tackle suicide problem
Belfast Telegraph Newspaper

By Ciaran O'Neill

23 November 2004

Three new support centres are to be created in a bid to tackle the suicide problem in Northern Ireland.

A Londonderry-based group which supports self-harm victims is to open outreach centres in Belfast, Enniskillen and Coleraine to provide help for people who have harmed themselves or attempted to take their own lives.

Last year alone, ZEST dealt with more than 500 people, some as young as 11 years-old, from its base in Derry.

But the charity claims that this is just the 'tip of the iceberg' in relation to the self-harm/suicide problem in Northern Ireland.

The new outreach centres are to be created to address the lack of such facilities in the province.

Recent statistics revealed that the suicide rate in Northern Ireland is the highest in the UK.

The extent of the problem was tragically highlighted earlier this year when up to 13 suicides were recorded in north Belfast within the space of a few months.

But staff at ZEST, which was formed in 1998 in response to the high suicide rate among young people in Derry, are hoping their new clinics will help prevent further deaths.

"We certainly believe there is a need for these new outreach centres," said a spokesperson for the group.

"There is no doubt that self-harm is a precursor to suicide but while we can't make big promises, the new outreach centres will be a good starting point for trying to address the problem."

A new member of staff has been appointed to develop the new outreach centres which are expected to be up and running early next year.