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Call to address young male suicides

Marty McKinley was treated for his depression and self harming.

A west Belfast man has told UTV how he looked for help to turn away from drugs and deal with his mental health problems, as a new report reveals young men are three times more likely to die of suicide than women.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013
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Five years ago Marty McKinley was a drug addict dealing with depression and self harm, and he was on the brink of taking his own life.

"My whole life felt like it was falling apart. I was not getting to see my children, I was not talking to any of my family. I just felt isolated and to me there was no point in being here anymore.

"It's the worst possible place to be in the whole world. There's no place like it. It's dark, it's dingy and it is soul destroying," he said.

But as he reached his lowest point, he knew he needed to seek help and reached out for treatment. Now he Marty is trying to help other young people realise that suicide is not an answer.

"It's too easy to give up. When you've a lot of issues that are drowning you, it's too easy to say this is it, I'm just giving up, I can't take it anymore," he said.

It was not easy to get back on my feet, it was along hard road but if you want to do it you will get there and the help is there.

Marty McKinley

Suicide increased by 64% in Northern Ireland between 1999 and 2008, mostly as a result in the rise of young men taking their own lives.

A cross-border report launched on Wednesday highlights the rate of suicide among young people in Ireland is one of the highest in Europe.

The economic downturn and increasing levels of unemployment were major factors for a recent spike in suicides among this group, according to the report by the Men's Health Forum Ireland.

It found factors most consistently associated with the rise in young male suicide are income inequality, family relationship difficulties, peer relationship problems, school failure, low self esteem and violence.

Gender roles and identity were also implicated in increased suicide risk among young men.

Johnny Ashe is a youth worker with east Belfast's Young Men Talking project. He helps people to talk about the problems that they are having, and said suicide is a big topic in the east of the city.

"This is an issue that's being highlighted now in east Belfast but it has been there for a very, very long time," he said.

"It's important for us to always talk to young men, always engage, always make sure that they're ok and always make sure that they have an opportunity to talk about their feelings and get the weight off their shoulders."

The study said there is no "quick fix" solution but said dialogue and treating depression are crucial to suicide prevention.

There can be no quick-fix solutions to tackling the very grave statistics on suicide in young men on the island of Ireland

Dr Noel Richardson

"This report provides a blueprint and a roadmap for action," report author Dr Noel Richardson said.

The Health Department has invested more than £32m in suicide prevention since 2006, but the NI suicide rate has not fallen, with 300 people in the region taking their own lives every year.

"Men aged from 18 to 54 who live in deprived areas face the greatest level of risk. In fact, males are three times as likely as females to die by suicide," said Health Minister Edwin Poots.

"Combating suicide is an immensely challenging task and there is no single miraculous intervention."

The NI Public Health Agency said it take on board the recommendations in their work to prevent suicide.

Madeline Heaney, head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement, added, "We know that suicide rates are higher among men, and the challenge for us all is to engage with men to help address this very serious issue."