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|Increased Suicide Risk in Deprived Areas in Northern Ireland
|Written by Siobhan Harding
|Thursday, 20 September 2012 00:00
The Health Minister Edwin Poots, speaking last week on World Suicide Prevention Day said that “people in deprived areas in Northern Ireland are three times more likely to take their lives.”
This stark statistic is also backed up by research from the WEA’s Man Matters Project which focuses on males. A research paper produced by Man Matters called Tackling the Root Causes of Men’s [ill]-Health highlighted that although international studies show that women are diagnosed with depression about twice more often than men, men are approximately twice as likely to die from suicide, with suicide rates in Northern Ireland being almost four times higher in men than in women.
These statistics give real cause for concern particularly in this current economic climate where unemployment is high particularly in deprived areas. There has been shown to be a strong correlation between unemployment and male mental ill health. Studies show that a 1% increase in unemployment was met with a corresponding 0.79% increase in suicide.
The recession has brought into sharp focus the difficulties caused by unemployment particularly for men. Financial pressures and worry about the future can also put a huge strain on personal relationships. The high suicide rate among men in Northern Ireland has devastating implications for the men’s families, their wider communities and even the wider economy.
The WEA welcomes the Minister’s commitment to "consider how the adverse psychological impact of redundancy and unemployment might be mitigated.” The Man Matters project has called on Government to address men’s health needs in particular through the adoption of a Men’s Health and Well-Being Policy for Northern Ireland. This would provide a much needed structure to measure if the needs of men and boys are being met and would ultimately identify men’s health as a priority area. Man Matters would also like to see appropriate mental and emotional support services developed for men which are crucially important in helping men (particularly young men) to deal with times of crisis or upheaval in their lives instead of using alcohol, drugs or even suicide as a coping mechanism. There is a need to provide programmes to help males to build resilience and develop their emotional intelligence. Any such initiatives need to be both accessible and widely promoted.
These figures come to light prior to the launch of a book called A Long Journey to Now will be launched by the Man Matters Project in October. The book is the story of Norman Stewart who wrote it as he wanted to tell his story and to help people understand how hard it is to deal with bullying, depression and suicide.
Norman survived but his only son Gary took his own life when he was just 28.
Norman is now part of the Colin Men’s Group and had been taking part in some courses provided through co-operation between the WEA Man Matters Project and The Colin Neighbourhood Project both funded by The Big Lottery Fund through The Live and Learn Initiative.
Norman’s book A Long Journey to Now will be launched on Wednesday 10th October 2012 in the Balmoral Hotel, Belfast at 11am. Copies of the book are free of charge and will be available at the event or to download from the Man Matters website at www.manmatters.org after the launch.