A sum of £10,000 has been ring-fenced by Newry, Mourne and Down Council in a bid to drive down the suicide rate in the district.
The motion, first tabled by Alliance councillor Patrick Brown had been deferred to committee but has since been given the thumbs up by representatives across the chamber.
Independent councillor Mark Gibbons said the money for a focused strategy would not have been possible if it hadn’t have been for the fantastic support and guidance from other councillors around the chamber, especially from Alliance, Sinn Féin and the SDLP.
“I can’t thank them enough,” said councillor Gibbons.
He added: “One of my pledges in my election campaign last year was to try and tackle mental health and suicide prevention head on-drawing on my own community experience.
“When elected, I proposed that Council officers investigate the possibility of adopting a ‘suicide down to zero’ approach, combating the high prevalence of suicide across our district.
“The Committee agreed that the Council should formally adopt this strategy and aspiration. As a result £10,000 will now be allocated to a mental health and suicide prevention small grants scheme.”
Agreement for a working group involving the Council, Southern and South Eastern Health Trusts and local relevant voluntary organisations is also to be created to examine ways of helping bring suicide down in the area.
It will also explore closer partnerships with local mental health and suicide prevention charities and look to establish a working group with the possibility of a dedicated Council officer being responsible.
At Monday’s Council meeting councillor Gibbons also asked that, next year, consideration be given to significantly increasing the £10,000 budget currently being allocated through the small grants scheme.
“As someone who has been very open about my own personal mental health through the years, and as someone who has tried to tackle this issue head on by creating initiatives like Men’s Sheds within our community, I am delighted to see an initiative like this start to take form and actually have the potential to help people in need,” he said.
“Yes, plenty more needs to be done regarding the scheme and the budget certainly needs to be increased next year, but given the current mental health and suicide crisis within our society, I see this as a small candle within a window, offering that little bit of hope to all concerned. You, me, family and community.”