Suicide Down to Zero gives helping hand for ten years

Suicide Down to Zero gives helping hand for ten years

5 June 2024

THE highly acclaimed Suicide Down to Zero charity was launched a decade ago.

It plays a key role across the district, with its board members including those who have survived suicide attempts, suicide prevention activists and those with a professional background.

Together, they have a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience alongside specific beliefs about suicide and its prevention.

The charity believes the only acceptable target for suicide deaths is zero and initially campaigned at Department of Health and senior Public Health Agency levels, but reverted to a “ground up” community development approach with the focus on “think big, start small and scale fast.”

Charity chairman, Mr Pat McGreevy, is hugely grateful to all Board members past and present, particularly Mr David Smith, a founding member who served as chairman from Suicide Down to Zero’s launch until July 2021.

Over the years, the Board has built up a group of committed and dedicated individuals who advise and guide it on a pro bono basis

Although the charity retains campaigning as a central focus, it has felt the need to step up public awareness and education about suicide, in tandem with providing specific suicide prevention skills training and providing care for people who have survived a suicide attempt and those who have lost a loved one or friend to suicide,

The group’s treasurer, Alison Carson, said it could simply not have come this far without the funds provided by individuals and organisations across the community.

“We are in the happy position where often people approach us with ideas for fundraising events and then they duly undertake them for the benefit of the charity.”

Long serving Board member, Joe Canavan, explained that although money is important to enable the charity to fulfil its mission, it believes it is more important that the message gets out that suicide is preventable, not inevitable.

The charity was also quite involved with The Well Centre in Kilkeel as it worked through getting its doors open three years ago and for some time after. 

And with the help of Suicide Down to Zero and the respect and support of its community, the Kilkeel venue is a firmly established suicide prevention centre serving the people of The Mournes.

Suicide Down to Zero is also particularly proud of some recent developments involving a partnership between the Pepper Johns Memorial Community Centre in Downpatrick, Ballynahinch Counselling Service and Board members to provide more counselling in the county town.

The Board discovered that some 

30% of the people who were receiving counselling services in Ballynahinch actually lived in Downpatrick. 

As a result of the new partnership, people no longer have to travel to Ballynahinch and can be seen in their home town.

Late last year, the Board set up the Hope and Healing support group for those who have lost a loved one or friend to suicide.

The group meets on the third Thursday of each month in Pepper Johns between 7:30pm and 9pm.

Last summer, with the help of one of its benefactors, the charity produced a new strategy that will guide the charity through until next year.

Newry Mourne and Down Council was the first local authority to adopt a suicide down to zero approach to suicide at the charity’s suggestion, with the help of two particularly helpful councillors. More recently, the charity has been urging the local authority to recommit to that aspiration to the benefit of everyone living in the area.

Another key initiative being rolled out is one that encourages and supports schools, sports clubs and workplaces to take a whole system approach to suicide prevention. 

St Patrick’s Grammar in Downpatrick was one the early adopters of the approach and is midway through the process which it being recognised as a suicide down to zero school. 

It is hoped that the new Lecale Trinity will follow the lead set by St Patrick’s, while some sports clubs in the area have begun a similar journey, initially focusing on the training element of the seven element strategy.

And Suicide Down to Zero has recently opened dialogue with researchers from Queen’s University Belfast.

A plan has been developed that could lead to a new pilot service for a particular group of men known to be at particularly high risk of suicide. The work will involve the homeless charity Simon Community in scoping the new service.

Regionally, Suicide Down to Zero is pleased to be working with the Participation and Practice of Right group.

The work focuses on seven key initiatives that individually and collectively have the potential to transform the experience for people using mental health and suicide prevention services and their families and carers.

The Suicide Down to Zero Board is also grateful to Eamonn McGrady & Co for the valuable assistance in the accounting reports for Charity Commission.