The governments on both side of the border need to show leadership in tackling suicide and self-harm, Gerry Adams has said.
Numbers of suicides have increased dramatically in the North recent years, which some have blamed on a breakdown in community solidarity and a loss of a sense of purpose following the peace process.
In north and west Belfast, the rise in suicides has been particularly pronounced, and matched by increasingly anti-social behaviour by disaffected youths. Violent attacks by some young people in west Belfast culminated in the stabbing to death of a local shopkeeper in west Belfast earlier this month.
Last week the Belfast Assembly mandated the Health Committee to conduct an inquiry into suicide, gathering evidence on the problem, and reporting back to the Executive and the Assembly by February.
Meanwhile, across the island, the number of suicides has jumped by some 20% in the past two years.
The Sinn Féin President told a conference hosted by his party in Belfast that an alliance on suicide prevention needed to be forged throughout the island.
“The key now is delivery,” the West Belfast MP argued.
“We need to mobilise civic society.
“We need to equip and skill ourselves to reduce and prevent suicide. There are now also more meetings between officials about suicide prevention north and south. That is useful.
“But we are still far short of the concerted, integrated all Ireland action lead by champions in government north and south.”
Mr Adams called for targets to be set on suicide reduction.
“With practical and measurable steps, and proper and effective resources, we can begin to tackle this crisis and dispel the panic and fear about suicide.
“Above all, we have to give hope. Le dochas ta seans ag gach rud. Hope in life and a desire to live.
“We can do that by providing resources and appropriate and effective strategies and by delivery of practical and common sense practices and services.”
Meanwhile, Mr Adams has described the recent murder of popular Belfast shopkeeper Harry Holland as “a killing waiting to happen”.
Speaking on Irish radio Mr Adams said he was angered by the stabbing to death of the 65-year-old man, the head of a large extended family, when a gang of teenagers apparently tried to rob his delivery van.
Mr Adams said that two constituents had warned the PSNI police that there were a gang in the area armed with knifes, and were on “a rampage”.
However the Sinn Féin leader accepted that there was “a lack of confidence” in relation to policing in West Belfast, and that the problem needs to be addressed.
He said that it is not the case that West Belfast was under-policed and that historically it has never been “properly policed”.
Mr Adams said that there was never an acceptable policing service in West Belfast during his lifetime.
He called for proper community policing measures and pointed out that there was no lack of willingness on the behalf of people living in West Belfast to engage with the PSNI.
Such criminal acts he said were “a modern phenomenon, fuelled by drink and or drugs”.
Criminality, he said, is not unique to West Belfast, adding that the crime figures for more middle-class South Belfast are worse.
“What is happening in Belfast in general pales in comparison to what is happening on a daily basis in Dublin,” he added.