Suicide vigil in west Belfast aims to raise awareness

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The vigil was organised following the recent deaths of three young men from the area

About five hundred people have attended a vigil in west Belfast to show support for families bereaved through suicide.

Three young men have taken their own lives in the area in just over a week.

The event was organised by two young people from the area, to publicise the help that is available.

They hope to establish more immediate contact between mental health professionals and those who need their help.

One of the organisers, Nuala Ni Scoilain said suicide is a "permanent solution to a temporary problem".

"There are people there who want to help and the people just need to reach out and take the help that is there," she said.

"We're going to do whatever we can for whoever we can and we'll do it in memory of people who haven't got the help that they needed.

'Reach out to others'

"We've had a surge of volunteers coming to us and saying that they are willing to help, give their services free of charge.

"Some people who have counselling backgrounds, some people who just want to help in any way that they can."

Liam McGuinness, a promising young boxer, took his own life on Monday.

It has been reported that the 21-year-old was the 10th young person to have taken his own life in west Belfast in recent months.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said as many as 21 people have taken their own lives in the area this year.

"I want to commend the young people who in the aftermath of the recent suicides took the initiative to organise the vigil," he said.

"Hundreds of people came to remember those who died, to sympathise with their families and to hear those who work in this field provide information and seek to reach out to others in need of help."

The West Belfast MP has called on the health minister to ensure funding for suicide prevention in Northern Ireland is ring-fenced.

He described it as a "crisis" which needed action from the executive.