Lord Mayor O’Donnghaile’s plans to tackle scourge of suicide

Belfast’s Lord Mayor Niall O’Donnghaile has said he wants to tackle the growing problem of suicide head on before his term of office ends.

Northern Ireland currently has the highest rate of suicide and self harm in the UK, particularly among 16 – 25 year olds. More than 75% of deaths in this age range are due to suicide.

Mr O’Donnghaile said he was planning to organise a one-day conference for experts in the field to raise awareness about suicide. And he also said he wanted to see suicide awareness training rolled out among employees at Belfast City Council.

“When I came into office one of the first issues raised with me was that of suicide,” he said. “I went out and met with organisations working in this area and listened to what they had to say.

“Suicide is a problem in Belfast, not just among the young, but it does has a massive impact on that age group.

“So I want to organise a significant initiative before my term of office ends, a one day conference and workshop for people who work in that field, to highlight the issue and what needs to be done. I also want suicide awareness training introduced at Belfast City Council. We are the second biggest employer in Belfast and many of our staff interface with the community on a daily basis.

“This training would show people how to spot the first signs but also, who to turn to if they thought someone was suicidal.”

The Lord Mayor was speaking at the Lighthouse Ireland project in north Belfast this week, one of many organisations which has benefitted from funding from Comic Relief. The issue of suicide is so serious that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) has set out a Protect Life suicide prevention strategy. Lighthouse Ireland is well positioned in both the community and with health and social care providers to deliver on this project which will engage in reaching out to 350 extra young people each year in Belfast and providing focused support for 30-40 of these.

The Comic Relief money funds a three-year ‘Youth Intervention’ post which specifically targets young people to help reduce the amount of suicides in young people in Northern Ireland.

Mr O’Donnghaile said: “The work done here by Lighthouse Ireland is second to none. The door is always open to the vulnerable in the community. It is a permanent fixture and the staff are proactive in tackling the issue of suicide.

“The introduction of the Youth Intervention worker has made a tangible difference here, thanks to the money from Comic Relief and hopefully the post will be extended beyond three years.””

Ruaidhri McDade, 23, said he had turned his life around with support from Lighthouse Ireland.

“I was in a bad way when I first came here,” he said. “I’d been smoking cannabis from the age of 12 and had mental health problems.

“I felt embarrassed coming in, but straight away, they got me someone to talk to. When I began opening up to the counsellor I couldn’t stop crying. But I felt so much lighter after I left.

“My counsellor was brilliant. I was never talked to like I was a kid. With the help of Lighthouse I got off the drugs and sorted myself out. There were dark times when I felt suicidal in the past, but thanks to Lighthouse, I turned my life around.”

£50,000 boost for Comminity Cash fund

Sport Relief is, once again, setting aside a £50,000 Community Cash Fund for local groups across Belfast.

Grants ranging from £500 to £1,000 will be made available to grassroots organisations in Northern Ireland that are doing good work to help communities living tough lives. For the second consecutive year the Belfast Telegraph will be on board to encourage small organisations to apply for a Sport Relief Community Cash grant. The Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Mile will take place on Sunday, March 25 and members of the public are being urged to sign up for the event. The money raised will then be spent by Comic Relief to transform lives in Belfast, across the UK and in the world’s poorest countries.

Organisations in Northern Ireland can avail of Comic Relief funds through the Sport Relief Community Cash grants. To apply, just log onto www.communityfoundationni.org before March 9. Previous winners of Comic Relief Community Cash grants include Cairn Lodge Amateur Boxing Club (£1,000), Knockmore Community Association (1,000) and Upper Ardoyne Junior Football Club (£992).

Sue Wicks, UK Grants Manager, Comic Relief, said: “Comic Relief is delighted to be working with the Belfast Telegraph and offering Sport Relief Community Cash again to local groups in Northern Ireland. We funded some truly fantastic projects in the greater Belfast area last time and are looking forward to seeing some new groups applying this time.

“Thanks to the hard work of these groups, money raised through Sport Relief can get right to the heart of the local community and make a real difference where it is most needed. I urge as many groups as possible to get their applications in now for their chance to get a grant from the £50,000 on offer.”

How To Apply for A Sport Relief Community Cash grant.

To apply for a grant of £500 to £1,000, log onto www.communityfoundationni.org before March 9.