In July, 1999, while visiting several cities and towns in Northern Ireland, J. Terry Ryan, President and Founder of The Children of Ireland Group, was told of the high number of youth suicides and attempted suicides. This was one of the reasons that the Group was formed shortly after returning to the U.S.
Since then, considerable efforts were made to increase the number of adolescent psychiatric beds from only six (6) in the entire Northern Ireland to approximately fifteen (15), although consultant's recommendations were well in excess of twenty! Unfortunately, funding for staffing and other related expenses is lacking and efforts continue to press for this extremely vital support to troubled youth!
Additionally, in February and March, 2004, news reports indicated that upwards of twenty (20) suicides had occurred in Northern Belfast since the first of the year! Discussions and letters to the Department of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety (Department of Health) and the North and West Belfast Trust (Trust) led to a joint news release indicating the possibility of a collaborative international mental health volunteer effort to provide much needed resources to prevent youth suicides (News Release: March 17, 2004) .
This news release was followed-up with the volunteering of Doctor Fred Bemak of George Mason University and Dr. Robert Conyne of the University of Cincinnati, Ohio to spearhead an initial visit to Northern Ireland to meet with their mental health counterparts, develop an initial assessment of efforts to prevent youth suicides and provide ideas and recommendations. This visit was accomplished in early May, 2004 with visits not only to Belfast but to also Craigavon, Banbridge, and Derry. Shortly after their return, their assessments and recommendations were provided on May 17, 2004 to Mr. Clive Gowdy, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health and the Trust (Doctors Initial Assessment).
In turn, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety through the CEO of the North and West Belfast Trust provided their response to the Doctors' May, 2004 report outlining additional information toward the prevention of youth suicides, new funding resources for initiatives, and additional programs (Trust & Department's Response).
Additionally, during the interval between reports, The Children of Ireland Group, Inc. updated its own information on yearly statistics for youth suicides (suicides 1991-present 19 yrs and less.htm) and attempted suicides (Attempted suicides less than 18 1994- present.htm) with appreciated assistance from the Department of Health, Social Security, and Public Safety and the Department of Finance - Regional Information Systems.