Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Press Release

19 May, 2008

PN: HSSPS 08/08


A more robust approach to the prevention of suicide and self-harm is needed if the problem is to be tackled effectively. That’s the message from the Committee for Health, Social Services & Public Safety’s Report on the Inquiry into Suicide and Self-Harm.

The investigation, which was set up to examine a sharp rise in suicide and self-harm rates in the region, concluded that existing structures should be strengthened by the establishment of a designated suicide prevention directorate.

Chairperson of the Committee, Mrs. Iris Robinson MP MLA, said, "Based on the evidence given to the Committee, we believe that closer co-operation within and across a range of government departments will enable Protect Life to achieve its goals of preventing suicide and self-harm.

"In addition, we believe that involving churches, local authorities, and sports groups in the delivery of the strategy, as well as ring-fencing project funds for the next three years, will all aid its success. The extension of educational initiatives to equip young people with ‘coping skills’ is also an important strand in preventing both suicide and self harm in our young people.

"One issue that we have concerns over is the decision by the Department to regionally roll-out a pilot telephone helpline before it has been thoroughly evaluated and reviewed. We believe that this decision needs to be re-considered and concerns addressed."


Notes to editors

The Number of suicides in Northern Ireland has increased in recent years from an average of 150 between 1999 and 2004 to 291 by 2006. Currently, approximately 195 people take their own life each year while a further 4,500 are admitted to hospital having attempted suicide or inflicted serious injury from engaging in deliberate self-harm.

Launched in October 2006, ‘Protect Life: A shared vision’ represents the Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety’s attempt to address the grave issue of suicide and self-harm.

In its inquiry, the Committee wrote to a wide range of public bodies and groups within Northern Ireland and further afield inviting written submissions. The committee considered some 70 written submissions and over 16 hours of oral evidence. Those who participated in the process included all Departments and Assembly Committees and relevant agencies in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. The Committee also visited a self-harm service based in north and west Belfast organised by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and took formal evidence from many organisations, including families bereaved by suicide, both in Parliament Buildings and at various locations throughout Northern Ireland.

Committee Membership:

Mrs Iris Robinson MP (DUP) (Chairperson); Ms Michelle O’Neill (SF) (Deputy Chairperson); Mr Thomas Buchanan (DUP); Rev Dr Robert Coulter (UUP); Dr Kieran Deeny (IHC); Mr Alex Easton (DUP); Mr Tommy Gallagher (SDLP); Mrs Carmel Hanna (SDLP); Mr John McCallister (UUP); Ms Carál Ní Chuilín (SF); Ms Sue Ramsey (SF)

The Clerk to the Committee is Mr Hugh Farren, Room 412, Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast BT4 3XX.
Tel No: 028 90521360 Fax No: 028 90521667
Northern Ireland Assembly Information Office, Room B2, Parliament Buildings, Belfast BT4 3XX.
Tel No: 02890-521137/521396. Fax: 02890 521961.
Website Address –

Media Enquiries to:

Stephanie Mallon, Northern Ireland Assembly Information Office, Room B2, Parliament Buildings, Belfast BT4 3XX.
Tel No: 028 9052 1953. Fax: 02890 521961.

Press office: 028 9052 1137

Website Address –