Fifteen suspected suicides in Belfast since July
on 29/10/2012 15:24:27
Almost 500 patients attended hospital emergency departments in the city with deliberate self-harm earlier this year, the Department of Health added.
Suicide rates are twice as high in deprived areas and the gap continues to widen, minister Edwin Poots has warned.
Some support workers face budget cuts and lack of resources, Sharon Quinn from the Lighthouse support charity said, but added they were working tirelessly.
"It does hinder the work that could be done in terms of employing staff, whom you would like to have available to provide a constant response but it is not always possible," the office manager said.
A 24-hour free telephone support line is funded by the department. The department provides around £7m (€8.7m) annually for suicide prevention.
There has been a notable increase in the tally of deaths over recent years and Ms Quinn blamed it on socio-economic and individual factors. There has also been a problem with copycat suicides but there are plans in place to try to prevent that from happening.
The latest details, 15 cases since July, were revealed by Mr Poots following a question from Sinn Féin Assembly member Sue Ramsey.
Mr Poots said: "Sadly, this is reflective of trends experienced over the last five years and work, therefore, is ongoing to address the high levels of suicide in areas of Belfast.
"This includes awareness raising, promotion of help-seeking behaviour, bereavement support, training for 'gatekeepers', and provision of counselling and crisis support."
According to the Minister, during the quarter ending June 30 2012, 467 people were presented with deliberate self harm at emergency care departments in the Belfast health trust.
Official statistics show there were 138 suicides in 1997 for the whole of the North. In 2011 there were 289, with 74 recorded in Belfast.
The highest tally was in 2010 when 313 were registered. People from deprived parts of Belfast are particularly vulnerable, with poor general health and few employment prospects.
Initiatives to help those at risk target people suffering from depression, self-harmers, bereaved children and ex-prisoners.
Liam McGuinness, a promising young boxer in West Belfast, took his own life in 2010. Recently in East Belfast there were seven suspected suicides in 10 days.
According to Mr Poots, a unique system for the use of sudden death notification forms warns statutory agencies about a sudden death.
There were initially problems with the timescales within which the forms were received by health trusts and the PHA but most forms are now being received within one week of a sudden death, Mr Poots said.
Someone who dies in hospital several days after a suspected suicide attempt is unlikely to be notified through this process.
Survivors of the worst years of the Troubles in the North are more prone to suicide and are using anti-depressants to cope with the era of peace, according to Queen's University Belfast researchers who studied suicide trends over a 40-year period.
Suicide rates nearly doubled for middle-aged men - who lived through the darkest days of the violence - in the decade of peace from the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the research found.