The Department of Health has today published the ‘Protect Life 2’ Suicide Prevention Strategy.

The strategy sets out what the Department will do to reduce suicide and self-harm over the next five years and looks at the importance of everyone working together on prevention.

Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, said: “Suicide is preventable and not inevitable, yet almost every day in Northern Ireland a person takes their own life. Whilst suicide rates here have remained relatively stable over the last decade the level is without a doubt unacceptably high.  How we address this is a challenge for all in government and society. I am pleased that permanent secretaries across the NICS have indicated their support for this strategy.

“The challenge for ‘Protect Life 2’ will be to substantially reduce suicide rates by 10% by 2024, in line with WHO advice.  One of the aims is to deliver suicide prevention services and support, with a particular focus on deprived areas where self-harm rates are highest and suicide rates are over 3.5 times higher than those in the least deprived areas.”

Currently £8.7 million is invested on suicide prevention each year. An additional £1.35 million has been provided through the transformation programme this financial year.

Welcoming the strategy, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: “We have already seen the positive difference that some of the new initiatives from the strategy are making to people’s lives.  The Multi Agency Triage Team is working in partnership with the Health and Social Care sector, PSNI and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service to provide on the spot mental health support to people who are in distress. This programme has recently been expanded and is now available in the Belfast and South Eastern HSC Trust Areas.

“In addition, a ‘Towards Zero Suicide’ initiative has recently been introduced in all HSC Trusts and has a focus on patient safety in adult mental health. Similar initiatives in other parts of the world have seen significant decreases in suicide rates.

“The toll suicide takes is not just measured in lives lost and anguish for families and communities. There is also an estimated wider societal cost of £1.55 million for each life lost. Right across government we must continue to prioritise investment in prevention.”

Protect Life 2 contains a range of new and ongoing actions designed to reduce the suicide rate including greater focus on those bereaved by suicide, more support for those who care for others and enhanced working across Departments.  Full implementation of the strategy will require additional funding in future years.

In conclusion, Richard Pengelly said: “Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and it is my expectation that this strategy will bring hope, support and clear direction for all involved in suicide prevention in Northern Ireland.”

The Protect Life 2 Strategy is available to download from the DoH website at www.health-ni.gov.uk/protectlife2

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