- IPH welcomes the commitment to address inequalities in suicide rate in Northern Ireland. Those living in the most deprived communities experience a greater level of poorer physical and mental ill health coupled with difficult and challenging social circumstances. These and other factors contribute to an increased risk of suicide. For this reason IPH would endorse linkages with Making Life Better as part of a wider societal approach to improve health and wellbeing as well as reduce inequalities in all aspects of life.
- Local communities have a pivotal role to play in supporting individuals and families affected by self-harm and suicide. IPH endorses the need to acknowledge the contribution local communities can make in supporting the implementation of this strategy.
- IPH believes it is increasingly important to promote and establish good social and emotional wellbeing among children and young people. IPH welcomes the acknowledgement within the strategy that Protect Life 2 will complement the Service Framework for Mental Health. We would encourage wider links to education policy to promote mental wellbeing and resilience among children and young people.
- IPH would recommend that Protect Life 2 is closely aligned to the Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse in Northern Ireland strategy. These linkages can be used as leverage for coordinated care for some of the most vulnerable and at risk, members of society.
- IPH would encourage the Department of Health to consider the very harmful influence the internet and social media can have on young people in terms of self-harm and suicide, particularly around group suicides or suicide pacts.
- IPH believes more work in needed in relation to alcohol dependency and alcohol as a factor in self-harm and suicide. We welcome all recommendations relating to alcohol as a risk factor in suicide within the strategy. Often alcohol dependency is not easily recognised by health care professionals, yet it is a significant addiction disorder.
- IPH believes actions should be specifically linked to the New Strategic Direction on Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2 and any future alcohol strategy. There is a core group of people with known alcohol dependency who are at increased risk of self-harm and suicide. It is important that the action plan reflects appropriate support and treatment services for these individuals. It will also be important to link with the promotion of mental health and wellbeing in the context of seeking to address alcohol dependency and reduce the risk of self-harm or suicide.
- IPH welcomes the action on enhancing North South cooperation on suicide prevention and sharing of policy and research. However, we believe this action could be strengthened and would suggest that more detail or specific actions are identified for cross border working. IPH would also suggest that the cross border dimension in relation to service delivery and where people seek and obtain employment is an important consideration within the new strategy.
- IPH would suggest that structured links with Connecting for Life (suicide prevention strategy in the Republic of Ireland) are established to benefit from the learning in a neighbouring jurisdiction where many of the factors linked to self-harm and suicide are similar.
In March 2017, the Department of Health produced a consultation analysis report – this can be accessed here.