The Health Minister commented: 'The Covid 19 pandemic has made us all acutely aware of how our mental health needs must be met as well as our physical needs. The restrictions put on our daily lives and routines have meant that for many of us loneliness and feelings of desperation have crept in, but I want to reinforce on this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day there is support and help available to anyone who needs it. No one must feel that there is no other option.

I have already made it clear that suicide prevention, mental well-being and mental health services are a top priority for me as Minister. And that is why to further support the excellent work being undertaken by Derry Crisis Intervention Service I am allocating a further £60,000 to Derry and Strabane District Council to allow the service to continue until the end of March 2020/21. This is important to provide stability for the service and reassurance for the local community given the far reaching impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic.'

A number of services have also already been implemented through the Protect Life 2 Strategy and the Executive are closely working together and monitoring that progress through regular meetings of the Executive Working Group on Mental Well-being, Resilience and Suicide Prevention. Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride who chairs the Protect Life 2 Strategy Steering Group commented,

'I am delighted by the rapid progress which is taking place not only in the health sector but right across Departments. This includes the development of the Towards Zero Suicide programme, the Multi Agency Triage Team collaboration between PSNI colleagues and the HSC, the Lifeline 24/7 helpline, training, and the development of a Children and Young People’s Emotional Health and Well-being Framework. Support services are in place and I would urge people to avail of these if needed.'

The Minister continued, 'I launched the Mental Health Action Plan in May which had 38 actions detailed, including a commitment to produce for consultation a mental health strategy before the end of this year and to produce the full strategy by July 2021. I am happy to report that the work is currently ongoing on a number of actions and we are currently on target for completion.

Earlier this year I also appointed Professor Siobhan O’Neill as the department’s Interim Mental Health Champion and already her input and advice is proving invaluable.'

Commenting ahead of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, Professor O’Neill said, 

'Across the world, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds. On Thursday people will come together in solidarity and spread awareness of how suicide can be prevented. 

As Mental Health Champion, I will drive forward the actions within the ‘Protect Life 2’ Suicide Prevention Strategy and ensure suicide prevention is considered in all key policies. I am passionate that we encourage everyone to look after their mental health and become our mental health champions, and in doing so look after ourselves and support others.  ‘Take 5 steps to well-being’ is a set of tools we can all use daily, to help care for ourselves.  As someone who uses these for my own well-being, I know they make a difference.'