Ulster Unionist spokesperson for mental health Robbie Butler has welcomed the overdue publication of Northern Ireland’s Suicide Prevention Strategy. The Lagan Valley MLA however expressed his disappointment at the unambitious target of reducing suicide rates by only 10% by 2024.
Robbie Butler MLA said:
“This publication is long overdue. It was a scandal that despite Northern Ireland having by far the highest suicide rate, as well as the highest rates of poor mental health, we were until now the only UK region without a current suicide prevention strategy. It was a political and moral disgrace, and one that I’m glad has now at long last been corrected.
“Suicide is a tragedy that has entered far too many homes in Northern Ireland. It is imperative that as a society we do everything we possibly can to support people in crisis.
“That is why I am pleased to see a range of new measures being proposed. I will work as positively and productively as I can with the Department of Health to ensure that that those specific actions designed to reduce the suicide rate are quickly implemented.
“I was disappointed however that Richard Pengelly looks to be following a target of reducing suicide rates by only 10% by 2024. Given the sheer scale of the problem I would have thought a more ambitious target would have been much more appropriate.
“It is already deeply regrettable that Northern Ireland will come nowhere close to the World Health Organisation target of member states reducing suicide rates by 10% by 2020. I hope that with this new strategy we can now use the next few years to exceed all targets.
“Were it not for the shameful absence of the Assembly for almost the last 3 years, there is simply no doubt that this strategy would have already been implemented and lives would have potentially been saved.”