Since the end of The Troubles in Northern Ireland suicide rates have been on the up. The figures for youths and men are particularly startling as they feature in the figures more and more.
Reports from the Public Health Agency remained static through the second half of the 20th century. However, they suddenly jumped by 64% between 1999 and 2008.
Studies commissioned by the agency show that suicide among young men aged 15 to 34 accounted for the bulk of the rise. In 2008 the agency carried out the most recent study. This showed that 77 percent of suicides in Northern Ireland were male and 72 percent of suicides were people within the 15 to 34 age group.
Public representatives, especially in Belfast, have commented that suicide rates are very high and need a more urgent response from state agencies.
Sue Ramsey, a Sinn Fen Assembly member for West Belfast, led a delegation pressing for urgent action from Stormont ministers.
Speaking to the “Irish Examiner” she said, “We need to wake up to the reality of this matter. Young people are more and more seeing suicide as a resolution to their problems. We have to ensure that a cross-departmental response which focuses on direct intervention is put in place.
“We must see additional counselors and intervention workers put into these areas to engage directly with young people.”
Those working with the public are keen to point out that there is no quick fix to this problem, and experts believe that it is a legacy issue from the end of The Troubles. Researchers at Queen’s University and the University of Maine agree there was a feel-good factor to the end of The Troubles, but there was also significant feelings of personal unhappiness and distress among the nation.
Among those affected are those for whom The Troubles are a childhood memory, or those who have been personally affected by The Troubles. Due to the fact that 77 percent of suicides are males, the Public Health Agency believes services should be concentrated on this group and should be long-term, ongoing and protective.