Social class a key factor behind suicide rate in north


One of North Belfast’s top psychiatric doctors Dr Maria O’Kane said at least 70% of patients her staff are treating in the Mater Hospital in Belfast for suicide and self harm issues have a history of alcohol misuse.

 The ‘Suicide and Homicide in Northern Ireland’ report by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness (NCI), which is based in the University’s Centre for Suicide Prevention, also shows that the higher Northern Ireland suicide rate is greatest among young people; 332 suicides occurred in people under 25 during the study period (2000 to 2008), with mental illness, drugs and alcohol, previous self-harm and deprivation being contributing factors in the majority of cases.

 It also found that high levels of social deprivation and poverty and key reasons behind people taking their own lives. Young people who died by suicide were more likely than other age groups to be living in the poorest areas and they had the lowest rate of contact with mental health services (15%).

 This is not only a legacy of the conflict where emotional and psychological trauma tends to be transmitted into other areas, but a symptom of a capitalist system which diminishes our humanity and breads hopelessness, fear and social breakdown. Where we are merely treated as commodities to be bought and sold and discarded when necessary in the interests of profit.

 While anarchists have no interest in legislating on people’s tastes and interests, we do have a problem with those elements in our communities who like to set themselves up as unofficial judge, jury and executioners of the working-class, in the mistaken believe that they can remove the scourge of drugs by removing drug dealers.

 The blight of paramilitaries, careerist politicians and major drug dealers are all a scourge in our communities, and can only be removed by genuine community action from below.

 The setting up of more free health clinics to provide essential services and the de-criminalization of drugs and rehabilitation will go along way to alleviating mental health issues in the hear and now. Ultimately, real empowerment will come about when we begin to look beyond the box and work towards eliminating the root causes of all our social ills.

WORDS: Sean Matthews