Warning over debt-fuelled suicides
Post-Christmas financial concerns have left people feeling increasingly desperate, a top suicide prevention campaigner has warned.
Philip McTaggart, founder of Pips (public initiative in preventing suicide) said some of those struggling with debt have considered taking drastic measures.
Mr McTaggart, whose 17-year-old son Philip took his own life in 2003, has urged families and communities to talk through issues with those who could be most vulnerable.
He said: "I have seen an increase in the number of people concerned about money and getting in contact with our group.
"Some people have borrowed money to pay for their Christmas and have been living over their means. Now, when the bills start to come in they are feeling the pressure. We have had one person come to us and say they were considering borrowing money from a drug dealer."
According to the latest official statistics, 289 people across Northern Ireland died by suicide during 2011.
Problems are particularly high in working class areas of north and west Belfast. However, there is also an increasing problem in the east of the city.
Mr McTaggart said his charity, which is currently dealing with 500 people in distress, has had to open extra hours to cope with the demand.
He added: "In Belfast the suicide rate has gone up by 64%. But we do not hear about the people who have attempted to take their own lives."
He urged families to look out for loved ones, particularly in the coming weeks. "Some of the signs include people isolating themselves - maybe they haven't been in the local bar or at the local knitting club; losing interest in themselves or their property. Make sure to ask if everything is ok. There is always another way and there is help available. No matter what the problem is or what the issues are, we can help."