Suicide helpline a "vital resource" for Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Health Minister Michael McGimpsey praised the "successful" piloting of a suicide telephone helpline in North and West Belfast, and says it clearly demonstrates the need and demand for this type of regional service.
The minister was commenting after an Assembly motion on the Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm. Mr McGimpsey said: "This helpline is about saving lives.
"I took the decision to roll out the service province-wide because of the high volume of calls received by the pilot helpline and because there was clear demand emerging from elsewhere in Northern Ireland."
The suicide helpline, called "Lifeline", deals with 200 calls per day from people across Northern Ireland.
Mr McGimpsey added: "The helpline is a vital resource for the people of Northern Ireland. Calls are answered by trained counsellors who are experienced in dealing with suicide, self-harm, abuse, trauma, depression and anxiety.
"They are available 24/7 to listen and provide help and support in the strictest confidence. Often opening up and discussing your problems with someone is the first step to recovery.
"Importantly, the counsellors can also put callers in contact with follow-up services to ensure they receive the best possible response to their needs."
During the debate, it was also revealed that in 2007 there were 242 suicides recorded in Northern Ireland which represented a 17% fall from 2006.
The minister said: "While I welcome this reduction, 242 deaths is still far too high. We simply cannot allow so many people to continue to be consumed by the tragedy of suicide."