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Last Updated: Monday, 30 October 2006, 16:48 GMT
Suicidal to get 24-hour helpline
Depressed young man
Northern Ireland's suicide rate has increased significantly
A 24-hour suicide helpline is being set up in north and west Belfast as part of a new suicide prevention strategy for Northern Ireland.

About 150 people take their own lives on average each year, and just over 40% of them are young men under 35.

In Londonderry, taxi drivers are to be trained to rescue people from the River Foyle. They are being given throw lines, first aid kits and blankets.

One driver said it was not uncommon to come across people verging on suicide.

Hugh Kearney said: "Most taxi men in Derry on both sides of the Foyle will come across it at the weekends and late at night and they don't know what to do.

GPs need to recognise people at risk, people need to have support and someone to turn to in the community for counselling when necessary
Paul Goggins
Health minister
"This first aid kit which is a great thing will give taxi drivers a chance to do something, but we're not asking (drivers) to jump in."

He said Foyle Search and Rescue and the City of Derry Aqua Club would be training a number of drivers, who would eventually pass on their expertise to others.

Launching the new strategy, Health Minister Paul Goggins said an additional 600,000 was being allocated to tackle suicide prevention.

The strategy follows a public consultation on how to deal with the problem, which last year saw 213 people take their lives, up 60 on 2004.

Mr Goggins told a gathering of bereaved families at the Farset Centre in west Belfast about how various initiatives were progressing.

These included the launch of a mentoring scheme in the Western Board area next month and a GP awareness training programme due to be developed by the end of the year.

The minister said publication of the strategy was important, but it was only a start.

"People, especially young people, need a friendly voice, a listening ear - that is why the helpline, available throughout the day and night is so important," he said.

"That is why the mentoring is so important - GPs need to recognise people at risk, people need to have support and someone to turn to in the community for counselling when necessary.

"I am confident that the strategy will help make sure that happens."

The suicide helpline, run by Contact Youth and Opportunity Youth, can be reached on 0808 808 8000.


SEE ALSO
Body set up to tackle NI suicide
10 Sep 06 |  Northern Ireland
'Urgent action' call on suicides
20 May 05 |  Northern Ireland
Suicide relatives in protest move
27 Apr 05 |  Northern Ireland
Belfast suicides expose despair
18 Feb 04 |  Northern Ireland

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