SOAPBOX: Suicide – the public health crisis of our times

Carrie Montgomery is deputy chief executive at Contact NI. If 90% of Northern Ireland patient deaths by suicide were assessed as no or low risk during their last contact with services, she asks in this post why the Public Health Agency is being constrained to just provide services for people at high risk of suicide?

Is cannabis, a relatively safe drug in adults, more toxic in teenagers?

The mayhem an estimated 900 troubled youths impose on the West Belfast community – a community of 100,000 souls – is staggering according to a N. Ireland Assembly report which is putting in place a support programme to turn lives around.  These individuals, mostly males, mostly in their late teens and early twenties, act antisocially which is a problem yes but the real worry is that, for a small but significant number at least, self-harm and suicide is a real … Read more

Suicide reduction or prevention? Contact NI conference in Belfast

Contact NI’s annual suicide prevention conference will be held on Thursday in Belfast. In a Northern Ireland where government departments and bodies often seem more keen on obfuscation and face-saving than data-sharing and truth-telling, switching from suicide reduction to a zero suicide approach that requires honest sharing and learning seems a large step. But a very worthwhile one in a place which continues to lose lives with the long-lasting ripples of the conflict.

Open Letter to Minister Michelle O’Neill on NI’s poor treatment of mental health…

Megan Haste suffers from anxiety and depression. She shares her own experience of issues a sincere challenge to the new Health Minister to take mental health out of the third division status it currently enjoys in Northern Ireland I am a daughter, a sister, an auntie, and a friend. I am 19 years old, and for 6 years I have been living with mental illness. This year, just before my birthday, I started seeing a cognitive behavioural therapist. She is … Read more

Why marriage equality should not become yet another expensive (and hysterical) NI drama

Siobhan O’Neill is a health psychologist and professor of mental health sciences at Ulster University. She is currently leading several studies on mental health and suicide in Northern Ireland and teaches on several of Ulster’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in psychology.  The obsession with the “naturalness” or otherwise, of particular sexual practices between consenting adults, may appear bizarre and laughable to onlookers. However such debates about the rights of minority groups and the right to discriminate on the basis of … Read more


It’s still there if you look closely. Just under my chin. Can you see it? Just zoom in a bit.   Ten years ago I was at the top of my game. Money was great, family was great, loved my job, loads of good mates; it was fantastic. Then the darkness. I can’t really remember the first experience but it didn’t seem to creep up on me. It happened suddenly and I was very aware of it. It terrified me. … Read more

“We seem to have adjusted to peace by means of mass medication…”

Some contrasting reports to note on health and well-being in Northern Ireland.  We knew in February this year that “the people of Northern Ireland are the happiest in the United Kingdom”.  That’s by their own subjective assessment, of course.  And a more detailed breakdown of the data suggests you might feel even happier living in some areas of Scotland.  As long as you’re employed, older, and in good health… Of more significance is the study by Professor Mike Tomlinson– “War, peace and suicide: The case … Read more