There have been renewed demands for intervention after two more young men from west Belfast took their own lives at the weekend.

Nationalist areas have mysteriously borne the brunt of the losses. In 2002 the number of people in north and west Belfast who took their own lives was nearly twice the average.

On Saturday workmen at Belfast City Cemetery discovered the body of 28-year-old John Wisdom.

Less than 24 hours later the body of Daniel Copeland (21) was found in the grounds of Holy Trinity school.

Both men are believed to be from the Turf Lodge area but their deaths are not thought to be connected.

The weekend deaths bring the number of young people to have taken their own lives in west Belfast this year to 22.

In a single week in April seven young people from west Belfast were found to have taken their own lives. The situation is similar in the north of the city, where thirteen young men took their lives in two weeks at the start of 2004.

There has been some speculation that poverty, overcrowding, traumatic stress and/or a breakdown in traditional values may be fuelling the epidemic, but little research has been conducted into the problem.

Family members of those bereaved through suicide have blamed inadequate resources to deal with the crisis. Last month, a group of them met health chiefs to demand that urgent action be taken to address the issue.

After that meeting the families called for a permanent ‘crisis response’ unit to be established in west Belfast as part of an initiative to deal with the issue of suicide.

At that time health officials said research showed a higher rate of mental illness in north and west Belfast compared to other areas in the North of Ireland.

Describing this latest double suicide as “a devastating blow to the community”, Sinn Féin councillor Michael Ferguson said “the trauma, sense of loss and bewilderment will be felt deeply”.

“We can only support the families as best we can by offering our prayers and thoughts.”

Former US President Bill Clinton recently launched a new programme by RehabCare in the 26-Counties two weeks ago to prevent suicides among young people there.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the problem now needed to be addressed on a cross border basis.

“The scale of suicide and self harm in Ireland is a national disaster requiring a national response,” he said.

“However helpful initiatives like that being undertaken by Rehabcare are intended to be they cannot meet the needs of the current situation.

“In 2003-2004 there were 577 reported suicides - more than the number of people killed in traffic accidents in the same period.”

Mr Adams said mental health services on both sides of the border were grossly underfunded.

He added: “I believe that the only sensible response to this deteriorating situation is for suicide prevention to become an area of co-operation under the Good Friday Agreement and that the Ministers for responsibility in both parts of this island meet to agree, and promote a strategic approach to suicide prevention across the entire island.”

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