For a long time, suicide was something that wasn't talked about.
A social taboo, it was something that people felt uncomfortable discussing and something they were ashamed to be associated with. It was a mortal sin and it was even against the law at one time.
But, suicide is something that we cannot ignore any longer and, with rising numbers taking their own lives now more than ever, people must become more aware of suicide and how it is so often preventable.
'Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem'
- Dermot Lynch
"Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," according to Dermot Lynch, Suicide Awareness Co-ordinator with the Western Health and Social Care Trust.
Dermot works as part of the Health Promotion Department whose role in relation to suicide has four aspects: education - training of community workers and healthcare professionals about suicide; the environment in which we live and how it is affected by suicide; media guidelines; and research into suicide and how it can be prevented.
Dermot explains that Northern Ireland was the first place to have a Suicide Prevention Strategy and, recently a new strategy, 'Protect Life' has been launched.
As part of his role, Dermot Lynch provides and facilitates training. One such course is ASIST (applied suicide intervention skills training), which Dermot describes as 'suicide first aid for everybody'.
"This training is for anybody who feels they could be coming into contact with someone affected by suicide," he explained.
Dermot also gives talks to community groups (or any group or organisation who want it). These are known as SAFE talks ('suicide alertness for everybody'). These types of training are all about recognising warning signs and knowing what to say, what to do and where to look for more help.
He explained that the number of suicides are calculated following the findings of inquests into people's deaths and a death will be counted as a suicide when death results from self-inflicted injuries, suicide or by undetermined intent.
If someone died in 2005, but their inquest is only held this year - and it meets the above criteria - then that death will be counted in this year's figure.
"The figures are increasing across Northern Ireland. The trend tends to go in waves and, unfortunately, it never goes away."
The important message that Dermot wants to get out there is that most, if not all, suicides are preventable, and that people can come out the other side and never look back.
Referring to one specific case, one woman told Dermot she was a 'success' because she was a failure. She had failed to commit suicide.
Help is available, and Dermot believes that if people can get to those feeling depressed or suicidal, then something definitely can be done about it.
"Depression is very treatable but we all need to be alert to the signs of it. Suicide is often seen as a problem that largely affects young men and, while this is essentially true, it is by no means confined to this specific demographic," he added.
One of the problems Dermot sees with young men is that men don't articulate their emotions well. "In the pub, they might talk about football or other sports but they aren't good at talking about how they feel. When it comes to talking about emotions, we have a lot to learn from the girls."
Another reason why the male suicide rate may be higher is men's use of more violent methods - guns and hanging, etc., while women tend to opt for less violent / instant methods, such as drug overdoses and self-harming, methods that often allow a period of time for them to be discovered.
"If anybody is feeling down, they should talk to someone. If there is no one in the family, then talk to your GP and tell them how you feel," urges Dermot.
"There are plenty of places willing and ready to help, like the Aisling Centre, Nexus and the Samaritans," (All available 24/7).
There is a directory of helping services available, with plenty of addresses and phone numbers that can be easily obtained.
"There is so much help available. It's just a question of asking. Suicide is a community issue, and it's not just an issue for the caring services.
If you are feeling depressed, talk to a colleague, a fellow sports player or a family member.
Information about services available is at
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