Community must look to itself for solutions – CRJ

Tensions within the community here in North Belfast following the recent tragic and well-documented suicides of these young men are high.

It has also been widely stated that pressure from a specific armed group has been a contributing factor in these events.

The group in question must through its leadership both locally and nationally take responsibility and accountability for whatever part it has played. If and where pressure is being applied, then it must stop.

Anti-social behaviour within our community is a big problem-but it must be tackled in the proper manner, Community Restorative Justice should be that vehicle. CRJ provides a safe, secure and confidential environment to deal with these issues and individuals. CRJ is unequivocally non-violent and affords equal respect and compassion to both the victim and the offender.

To focus solely on one factor, as being the whole cause and effect of what has happened is wrong, it is wrong because it then does not allow us to see what other composite factors may be influencing the mental health of any young person who may be contemplating this option. CRJ cannot be strong enough in stressing that suicide is never the answer. No problem is ever that bad that, with the appropriate help and support, it cannot be surpassed.

Our community needs to go through, and we accept that it will be painful, a process of self-analysis. We must look to ourselves first to find the questions and the answers before we attempt to formulate the solutions.

What are the factors that affect the mental health of our young people? Why are they disaffected within our community? We need to realise that suicides of this nature are happening right across this city, even in areas where pressure from armed groups does not exist.

We must ask the affects of broken homes, alcohol abuse, drug abuse (including prescription drugs), neglect, lack of employment opportunity, failings within the education system, depression, low self-esteem and indeed fear and anxiety of threat, real or perceived, from an armed group.
We as a community must ask ourselves what we can do – how we can make the statutory bodies, who have a responsibility to provide adequate provision to prevent these problems, accountable.

Community Restorative Justice has moved from the Crumlin Rd to new premises on the Antrim Rd. We are under funded and under resourced – we receive no funding whatsoever from any statutory agency. With adequate provision we can be even more effective in our work within the community.
Anyone who believes themselves to be under threat from an armed group should contact us at CRJ immediately, we cannot help someone if we don’t know they need help.

The community must take responsibility for the solutions needed, Anti-social activity must not be allowed to take hold within the community – young people should not feel that suicide is any kind of a solution! We need to promote what is socially and morally right and ensure that our community identity is a positive one.

We must volunteer our time and our help, our thoughts and our skills to make this happen, every one has something to contribute, either by volunteering to train with CRJ, joining a residents group or community watch scheme and indeed by supporting the work of the P.I.P.S project which can be contacted through the Ardoyne Focus Group. CRJ can be contacted on 02890747888.

Breandán Clarke Community Restorative Justice North Belfast Co-Coordinator.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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