Photograph of Professor Gerry Lynch, Claire Curran, Professor Sir Michael McBride, Professor Siobhan O'Neill, Samaritans Ireland Assistant Director Mark Kennedy and Sarah Travers.

‘Let’s talk about our mental health to change lives’ say Samaritans

‘Progress and Challenges of Mental Health in Northern Ireland’

Hosting a panel comprising of key mental health professionals, and welcoming guests from partner agencies, health professionals and key business people, Samaritans are calling for openness and discussion on the ‘Progress and Challenges of Mental Health in Northern Ireland’ in order to prevent people dying by suicide.


The Mental Health seminar, which took place at Parliament Buildings this week (22ndFebruary), documented the charity’s ongoing commitment to preventing suicide with its strategic priorities for 2022 to 2027 and opened discussion with a panel of Key Mental Health officials about the Mental Health challenges faced in Northern Ireland.


The volatility of 2021 saw Samaritans supporting people right across Northern Ireland and just at the moment they needed to talk. The charity answered over 115,000 calls across the eight branches, equating to nearly 28,000 volunteer hours on their free phone helpline and in excess of ten thousand emails. Research has shown the busiest day of the week to be Tuesday, and the busiest time is 6pm until midnight, accounting for a third of all calls answered. Relationship issues, physical health, family, were the primary reasons for contacting Samaritans.


Speaking at the event, Samaritans Assistant Director Mark Kennedy said: “Our listening service has been at the core of Samaritans' work for over 60 years, always offering a trusted space for those who need us. Because of the remarkable commitment of our volunteers and staff, we keep our helpline services open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

With our *five year strategy, we want to do even more to reduce the levels of distress, anxiety, isolation, and hopelessness that lead people to contact us in the first place. Opportunities exist in Northern Ireland to make real and lasting changes, ensuring more openness and discussion around mental health meaning fewer lives are lost to suicide”.

One of the key members of the event panel, Professor Sir Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, said: “Awareness of the early warning signs of mental health difficulties, early help and effective treatment, are key to preventing more serious mental illness, this is particularly important when you consider that untreated depression is one of the major risk factors for suicide. Early intervention for positive mental health and wider measures to improve the quality of life are undoubtedly part of the long-term answer to suicide prevention”.


Professor McBride Continues: “We all need to allow ourselves and others permission to talk when we’re feeling sad or overwhelmed.  That’s why the Samaritans’ message is so important. When someone has the reassurance that they are not alone and that people are there to listen, it can make all the difference. It’s something to hold onto in the most difficult of times.”


Last updated 3 weeks 3 days ago