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GP calls for better communication to reduce suicide and self-harm

A GP giving evidence on behalf of Northern Ireland's British Medical Association (BMA) has urged for health and social services to take greater responsibility in supporting people with self-harming or suicidal tendencies.

Dr Tom Black, a GP in Derry, who was giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly's Health Committee yesterday (Thursday 15 November), told the committee: "Every suicide or self-harm statistic has a story, a face, a family and a legacy.

"Everybody has a role and a responsibility in supporting people with these tendencies to overcome or manage their urges. The issue of suicide or self-harm should be part of an holistic approach to improving mental health throughout our society.

"Society in Northern Ireland needs to work very hard to stem the rising tide of suicides here. Evidence shows that social changes are needed to reduce the number of suicides;  measures such as increasing the price of alcohol would help reduce the harm caused by excessive use of it, particularly within vulnerable groups.

"There also needs to be better communication between all HSS agencies, secondary care, primary care, community care and the voluntary sectors when dealing with suicidal or self-harming patients.

"There must be greater access to talking/cognitive therapies.  These are virtually nonexistent in Northern Ireland, and this needs to be corrected.

"Child and adolescent mental health services are woefully under-resourced here. Without improvement in our infrastructure, ie, more psychiatrists and more psychiatric bed availability, we will continue to only crisis-manage this situation, rather than being able to provide preventative support."

The BMA(NI) was responding to the Health Committee inquiry because it believes it has a role and responsibility to represent medical professionals' views from the frontline on how some aspects of suicide and self harm prevention could be improved. 

A document of written evidence was submitted by BMA(NI) to the Health Committee, which will be published once the inquiry is completed.

BMA Northern Ireland

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