McGrath: Increase in suicides highlights need for funded mental health strategy

mental health Colin McGrath

SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has said it will be impossible to properly tackle the mental health crisis in the North without Stormont functioning.

Mr McGrath said an Assembly and Executive was needed to fund a robust mental health strategy.

Figures released by NISRA show that there were 237 deaths from suicide in the North last year, an increase of 18 from the previous year and the highest since 2015.

South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:

"These figures released by NISRA make for startling reading and show the challenge ahead of us to get to grips with the mental health crisis in the North. Behind every one of these statistics is a devastated family and friends left searching for answers and we need to do everything we can to address it.

"Everyone has a duty to reach out and to help and support those in our communities who are suffering from poor mental health, but all too often the burden falls on voluntary groups. The last few years have been very difficult for everyone, we have gone through the coronavirus pandemic and emerged to a cost of living emergency that is putting families under severe pressure. There won't be a single person who hasn't been impacted by these experiences in some way.

"It's important to note that nearly 75% of these deaths last year were male and this must lead to targeted resources and interventions. We need to understand why so many people, particularly young men, are experiencing mental health issues and taking their own lives. As things stand we are losing a generation, we are losing the battle against suicide and that simply cannot continue.

"As with many of the issues impacting society in the North at the minute, to properly deal with this situation we need an Assembly and Executive in place. Without this, we will not be able to fund our mental health strategy, leaving people in crisis with fewer places to turn and more families forced to deal with the unimaginable pain of losing a loved one in this manner."

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