MLA Edwin Poots has spoken passionately of one of societies taboo and controversial subjects, suicide.
Mr Poots, family circle and community wereleft devastated when a relative’s son ended his own life.
“Suicide is something which has touched many people in Northern Ireland,” writes Mr Poots. “Unfortunately, Northern Ireland’s suicide rate has been the highest in the UK for three years in a row now.
“Like many others, my family has been touched by suicide and the community I live in has experienced the pain of someone who has felt their only option was to take their own life.
“Dealing with the aftermath of suicide is hugely painful. Those left behind ask questions. Was it something I said or did, or indeed was it something I didn’t say or do?
“Why did they not confide in me? ‘If only’ will be a regular preface when discussing what happened, but underlying will be the finality of loss and the immense pain in that it may well have been avoidable, often leaving innocent loved ones carrying a burden of guilt.”
He went on, “We must send out the message that no matter how dark it may seem help is always available and that every life is valuable. No one should ever feel they are worthless or their life does not matter. Whilst people of all ages and backgrounds may take their own lives, the figures are particularly acute for young men and for those in urban, particularly working class areas.
“The Executive is putting £7m per year into suicide prevention. Like so many other issues extra funding would obviously be desirable, but there are also many cases where someone takes their own life without any previous indicators that might have allowed intervention.
“There is a particular challenge in these cases as to how we can identify someone who may be at risk of suicide when there appear to be no prior indicators.
“The work of suicide prevention organisations is absolutely invaluable, not only to those who reach out for help, but families coping with the aftermath of a loved one who has taken the decision to end their own life.
“For many years suicide was something that simply was not talked about, and one of the steps forward we are taking as a society is simply that we are talking about this problem.”
In 2014, 268 people died by suicide, a decrease from 303, in 2013. Many celebrities have ended their own life - world famous writer Ernest Hemingway shot himself, Alexander McQueen the fashion designer hung himself a week after his mother died, and Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain also died by suicide.