Northern Ireland

Edwin Poots says number of suicides 'unacceptably high'

Suicide levels in Northern Ireland are "unacceptably high", the health minister has said.

Edwin Poots was speaking on a motion tabled by the health committee on suicide prevention.

He said Northern Ireland had seen an upward trend in the numbers of those taking their own lives, whereas numbers had fallen elsewhere in the UK.

"Provisional figures for registered deaths by suicide in 2012 show that the rates remain far too high," he said.

The minister said the rates had "virtually doubled" in the last decade.

"For the earlier part of the decade there was an average of 150 deaths by suicide each year. By 2006 the annual number of registered deaths had virtually doubled.

"The figure has been sustained since then. The department has looked for reasons for the sharp increase over this period, however, there's no obvious explanation."

Health committee deputy chairman Jim Wells said there were 313 people in Northern Ireland who had taken their own lives in 2010.

Health committee chairwoman Sue Ramsey of Sinn Fein, who had proposed the motion, said it was important that there was a "comprehensive joined-up approach" to the issue.

Before the vote took place, Kieran McCarthy of the Alliance Party thanked all the members for their messages of sympathy following the recent death of a relative by suicide.

The motion passed unanimously.