Suicide battle in NI 'could be hampered by downturn'

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Unemployed people are two to three times more likely to take their own life, according to a senior civil servant

The economic downturn could hamper efforts to reduce the number of suicides in Northern Ireland, a senior health department official has said.

Gerard Collins told the Stormont health committee plans are being put in place to tackle "suicide clusters" in every health trust in Northern Ireland.

But he added that unemployed people were two to three times more likely to take their own life.

He said support was needed for people impacted by redundancy.

Mr Collins, who works for the Health Improvement Policy Branch, said that some trusts were already operating "community response plans".

He told the committee that they aimed to ensure "suicide clusters are spotted early" with action then being taken to prevent further deaths within a particular area or group.

Suicide had long been regarded as "contagious" and imitative behaviour was influenced by reporting of suicide in the media or exposure to a pattern of suicides within one area, he said.

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