A grieving Portadown mother, whose son committed suicide recently, believes the health authorities should set up a specialist department to try and prevent people taking their own lives.
The woman – who wishes to remain anonymous – said her son, a married man with a family, had acted totally out of character. “Usually, he was an easy-going man – the last person you’d have thought would take his own life.
“But he was going through a traumatic time, and he did it on an impulse. There was no warning and suddenly we were left without the son we adored. We’re all totally bereft, and while people and organisations do their best, we are left mainly with well-meaning amateurs trying to help up pick up the pieces.
“I’m not being unkind when I say that some of them do more harm than good. There are, of course, some organisations that know the score, but with the shocking increase in suicides – especially among the ‘peak’ age group in their 30s and 40s - they are often swamped. We don’t know which way to turn.”
The woman’s comments coincide with a meeting on suicides organised by Mayor Mark Baxter. It took place last night (Thursday) with the speakers including Health Minister Edwin Poots and psychiatrist Dr Arthur Cassidy.
Dr Cassidy delivered a keynote speech at the event, and told the Times the mother and son’s situation were symptomatic of what was happening.
“The key element in this situation is loneliness,” he said. “The full situation has been explained to me, and the young man is in the key 30-45 age group. Modern society can be an extremely lonely one, with the close-knit communities of the past and the extended family groups loosening with so many of the current generation moving to other countries and with families no longer living round the corner from their mother.
“More and more marriages are breaking up, unemployment is an element, neighbourliness isn’t what it used to be and loneliness is so much on the increase. Men of that age suffer because in the event of a marriage break-up the children are with the mother and despair sets in.”
He added that people must try to re-create the community links, by joining groups, by taking up all-embracing hobbies, like music and travel, and he agreed that the authorities must set up a network to help prevent suicides and to support families.
“Simple counselling is no longer adequate,” he said. “There exist systems in places like Scotland, continental countries and Australia where advanced techniques are engaged and which work.
“All these avenues were on the Civic Centre agenda in the face so many suicides. Craigavon is third in Northern Ireland behind Belfast and Londonderry – and we are encouraging Mr Poots to take back our views for further exploration. The Northern Ireland suicide rate of 18 per 100,000 must be reduced.”