An MLA has spoken of the harrowing impact of the deaths of three teenagers in his school year group, as he called for the suicide and mental health ‘epidemic’ to be given priority.
Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley has written to the new Secretary of State Julian Smith on the issue.
“The region has the highest suicide rate in the UK, with 300 people a year losing their lives to suicide here,” he said.
“Right at the top of Julian Smith’s inbox as Secretary of State must be mental health and suicide.
“Families and communities throughout Northern Ireland have been devastated by this silent killer.
“I personally have lost friends. I will never forget the harrowing impact of suicide while I was a pupil at Craigavon Senior High School in 2007 when the school was rocked by the tragic deaths of three boys in my year group,” he said.
“Three young men with so much to offer, I remember talking in the school corridor to one friend just hours before he took his own life.
“Our school fell into a deep state of mourning, with many questions being asked regarding the deaths of three 15-year-old boys within one month.
“As a school community, we had seen the very worst but also the very best of humanity as teachers and pupils rallied together to comfort one another at a time of great distress.
“I will never forget the great lengths teachers went to at that time to comfort pupils, it went above and beyond anything I had ever witnessed,” he said.
“It is at this moment I realised more must be done to help those who suffer silently,” he said.
“We need an urgent review of mental health services in this country and in the absence of Stormont I would appeal to Mr Smith to progress this.
“As a society, we are indebted to the services that are there, including charities and other organisations, and I thank them for that.
“However, they can’t do it on their own.
“We owe it to our communities to provide a fit-for-purpose support network, from the earliest possible intervention.”
“The Protect Life 2 draft strategy is sitting on a shelf which in itself is an absolute scandal.
“We need our Secretary of State to intervene and drive the delivery of a suicide strategy for Northern Ireland.”
If you feel you need help, please contact the Samaritans free on 116123 or Lifeline free phone 0808 808 8000.