Call for action over suicides
Call for action over suicides

Concerns over the high level of teenage suicide in west and north Belfast have reached a new level following a series of deaths in the past few months.

One north Belfast teenager, who suffered a fractured skull and a hole in the side of his head in a savage sectarian beating, took his own life this week.

Nineteen-year-old Niall Ferrin from north Belfast was discovered by his girlfriend in Newcastle, County Down.

His death follows the suicides of his close friend Michael Cairns. Sixteen-year-old Michael was found by his father at their home in the Oldpark area, seven years ago his 18-year-old brother Barney took his life.

The suicide prevention group PIPS says 23 people took their lives in north Belfast alone last year, and more needs to be done to help.

“We don’t want to lose anymore people to suicide, we want to be able to reduce this whole issue of suicide where people are getting the help that they need”, Philip McTaggart from the organisation said.

Rates of teenage suicide in west and north Belfast far exceed those of other area in the North. Two 13-year-old children in the Colin area of west Belfast died in the course of a single week in January in two separate incidents.

The problem is focussed in the former urban strongholds of the Provisional IRA and has been linked to the outbreak of social and community problems following the end of that group’s armed struggle.

However, no strategy has yet been put in place to counter the breakdown in community values, disempowerment and subsequent increased levels of anti-social activity.

Philip McTaggart’s own son died from suicide, leading him to begin work in the PIPS charity. Barney Cairns was a friend of his son.

“Eight years ago young Philip died and I went with west Belfast MP Gerry Adams to meet with the health minister at the time,” he said.

“I asked what was happening with suicide prevention and they told me there was a strategy in place. I remember asking what exactly is it because I’m on the ground and I don’t see it and they assured me it was there.

“The Protect Life Strategy was then set up in 2006. All these years later and I am wondering what the ongoing battle we are facing every day is doing. What really brought this home to me was Michael Cairns, here is another family who have lost two loved ones, whose son Barney was a friend of my Philip’s.

“It really hit me hard because it just brought it all back again. What exactly will it take for serious action to be taken?”

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