Youth Suicide Project
RECENT EVENTS: Newspaper Articles related to Northern Ireland Suicides
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 primary reasons the organization was formed shortly after Terry returned to the U.S.
Since then, considerable efforts were made to encourage increasing 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, as of July, 2004 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...many of these were youth less than 19 years of age...many were youth suicides acted out in response to other friends/relatives who had recently committed suicide or died unexpectedly! 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 with the joint assistance of the Friends Without Borders organization (Dr. Niall Mac Allister, MD President and Founder) to provide much needed resources to prevent youth suicides (News Release: March 17, 2004) .
Visit of Prominent American Mental Health Doctors to Northern Ireland
This joint 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, both very familiar with international mental health volunteer efforts, to spearhead an initial visit to Northern Ireland. Their purpose was to meet with 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 through funding provided by gracious supporters of The Children of Ireland Group. Visits were made not only to Belfast but also Craigavon, Banbridge, and Derry with very gracious hosts. On May 17th, 2004, the Doctors provided their assessments and recommendations to Mr. Clive Gowdy, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health and Mr. Richard Black, CEO of the Trust (Doctors Initial Assessment).
Response to the Doctors' Recommendations & Doctors' Own Response
In turn, the Department of Health through the Trust's CEO provided their response to the Doctors' May, 2004 report outlining additional information and their own efforts toward the prevention of youth suicides, new funding resources for initiatives, and additional programs (Trust & Department's Response).
The Doctors' response to the Department of Health and North and West Belfast Trust own response was received (Doctors' Response 7-14-04). Hightlights of their response include:
-PIPS Suicide Prevention Project is the only Department of Health project that
specifically addresses youth suicide prevention, from all the material they've
seen. Other projects are described as addressing youth trauma and other
mental health issues.
-The Trust indicates its primarily responsibility is to only
"deliver treatment, care, and support to address health and wellbeing need within
our catchment population.....but it is not our remit to lead on the resolution of the
The Doctors fully concur, and they note:
"We remain strongly convinced based on our meetings and observations in
Northern Ireland, extensive international work around the world, and significant
work in the area of trauma, that the facilitation of cross community communcations
between (inter) and within (intra) sectarian groups where there are high levels of
conflicts, must be instituted in manner that focuses on youth suicide.
The Doctors further note that in their current response, "..the Community Counseling
Project and the new Trauma Resource Centre as programs that will address youth
suicide, (thus) supporting the notion that conflict, trauma, and suicide are
Going further, the Doctors provide some uniquie step-by-step guildelines to facilitate
addressing sectarian conflict to reduce youth suicides in their response. Steps that
could be supported by their colleagues from the international mental health
Northern Ireland Suicide Statistics
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.
At the present, inquiries have also been made as to the status of implementing the approved adolescent psychiatric beds approved over two years ago and the status of hiring a funding-approved position for an additional adolescent psychiatric physician in Belfast. At the present, only ONE adolescent psychiatric physician is practicing in Belfast, however, only taking new emergency related cases.
American Counseling Association Magazine Article - August, 2004
The American Counseling Association's Counseling Today Magazine's August, 2004
edition provided a very well researched article on the recent visit of Drs. Bemak and
Conyne, their recommendations and responses received from the Trust and the Department
of Health, along with the Doctors continuing concerns on how to reduce youth suicides
Terry Ryan's Visit to Belfast - August, 2004
During the week of August 23rd, Terry attended over twenty (20) meetings in Belfast
with the Department of Health, N&W Belfast Trust, mental health professionals,
community centres, and community representatives to discuss the Children of
Ireland Group's youth suicide prevention efforts and, especially, the recommendations
made by the organization's professional mental health Doctors. Community
groups and mental health professionals were extremely appreciative of our
efforts and were very supportive of the recommendations.
Unfortunately, discussions with the Trust were less than hopeful, however,
discussions are to continue between the Doctors and Trust representatives
and it is sincerely hoped that the recommendations will come to fruition;
otherwise, the trend of youth suicides will continue.
The following news articles appeared at the end of Terry's visit in Belfast newspapers:
Newspaper Articles Regarding Suicides in Northern Ireland
The following link provides a link to other newspaper articles that appeared
shortly after this visit:
Sadly, on September 21st it was learned that a physician working in the Royal
Hospital committed suicide on-premises along with a patient within a few hours
of each other. It's understood that a major investigation is underway.