Two sides of same coin - Andersontown News

Alarmingly high levels of suicide in Belfast cannot be divorced from the breadline existence of many of its people.

Thatís the conclusion of new research into suicide which was published this week by the Southís Institute of Public Health in Ireland and the Health Development Agency here.

Urging action to prevent youth suicide in particular, the agencies (sensibly working together) point to joblessness and fear of redundancy as key triggers of suicidal behaviour. Hopelessness and despair, the bedfellows of suicide, thrive in communities where there is a huge gulf between the haves and have-nots.

While Belfast has been enjoying a moderate revival in its economic fortunes over the past decade ó jobless levels are now at an all-time low ó many of our people continue to be left behind. In Ballymurphy, for example, 83 per cent of schoolchildren are officially recorded as living in poverty.

Key risk areas for youth suicide, according to the new research, include:
* History of depression.
* Substance misuse
* Poor family circumstances
* Personality traits such as impulsiveness and aggression.

In this land of plenty, those who are without meaningful employment are more likely to seek refuge from their woes in drink and drugs. Such behaviour, in turn, only compounds an already difficult situation and can lead to the point of no return.

A good job, it seems, can cure many ills.

Thatís why the Number One Priority facing Belfast today is providing long-term, well-paid, rewarding employment for its people. Ten years after the IRA ceasefire, itís just not good enough to have a situation where long-term unemployment remains endemic in areas like the Lower Falls and the Shankill.

The West Belfast Task Force laboured long and hard to come up with proposals to regenerate the economy. Their blueprint for recovery has been partially approved by the powers-that-be. It must now be implemented in full and backed by adequate funding. For giving people employment really is a matter of life and death.
Journalist:: Robin Livingstone