At a full meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council there was agreement across the chamber that more needed to be done to tackle what one councillor described as an “epidemic of suicide” among young people in the area.

The debate arose following a reply was received to a letter sent by the Council to the Permanent Secretary of Health, Richard Pengelly.

In his reply Mr. Pengelly outlined the various investments that have been made in the Fermanagh and Omagh District area but it was the general feeling among the chamber that the Permanent Secretary was not grasping the crux of the issue, which was that the results from various initiatives were not positive enough.

Councillor Josephine Deehan stated that there were valid points raised in the letter from the Permanent Secretary of health and she accepted that other agencies played a role in the mental well being of people within society, however she said that it was quite clear that despite the investment, the initiatives that have been embarked upon “have not borne fruit”.

“The point that we sought to make is that at present there is an epidemic of suicide among young people and we have to find some way in making this work,” she said, before adding:

“This is a matter of such seriousness that it merits further exploration as to why these measures and this investment has not been working and we should actually ask for representatives from the department of health, department of education and from the department of justice to come together to meet us here in council to discuss the various initiatives and why they have not borne fruit.”

Councillor Barry McElduff of Sinn Fein said that according to one family who had contacted him there was a lack of proper counselling available.

“I have come in to contact with a local family who are making a cry for help, and it is around a teenage member of their family who, without being too specific, is getting in to trouble and he risks a criminal record at the age of 15 when actually it is a cry for help. One of the phrases that struck me from the family was ‘our young person will be the wrong person convicted when the crime really is the lack of engagement and lack of availability of counselling services’”

UUP Councillor John McClaughrey referred to the CAMHS mental health service and said that there was clearing staffing issues that financial investment would not solve:

“The few staff that they have are under so much pressure, I believe they have high sickness levels. The money may be there but if they haven’t got the staff then it doesn’t matter how much money is thrown at it. It needs to be addressed in terms of how are they going to cover the staffing levels that are needed.”

In response to this point Councillor McElduff said that “Councillor McClaughrey is 100 per cent right”.

“It is a recruitment and retention issue. We were advised by the Public Health Agency that the process of recruitment needs to be changed. There is a regional model for recruitment, and it is very very cumbersome and laborious, and it leads to recruitment problems.”