ALCOHOL mortality rates in Fermanagh have dropped but concern remains that levels are still too high.
Figures released for 2021 from the Northern Ireland Statistic and Research Agency (NISRA), show that Fermanagh and Omagh recorded a rate of 20 per 100,000 people who have had alcohol-related deaths.
That is a drop from the Covid lockdown year of 2020 when the figure was 26.5 per 100,000 – however the 2021 total shows Fermanagh and Omagh to have the fourth-highest rate in the North.
Derry City and Strabane had the highest figure with 28.8 per 100,000 while the lowest figure was posted by Lisburn and Castlereagh with 11.1.
Aidan Ormsby of Irvinestown-based group SOLACE, which provides a service for people suffering with alcohol addiction, states that a number of factors have led to the area’s high level of alcohol-related mortality rates.
He said: “From a SOLACE point of view, the figures show that alcohol is still a considerable issue across the province but especially in Fermanagh and Omagh district. It is still very prevalent in our area – addiction to alcohol is still high and continues to be high. I suppose some of that over the last number of years has been exacerbated by Covid, the lockdowns and the cost of living crisis.
“In terms of addiction, we see on a weekly basis the impact of it on households and individuals across Fermanagh and Omagh and there is a demand for services in relation to addiction.
“SOLACE has delivered a service in this area for the last twenty-odd years. You always strive to do the best you can for people and that’s all you can do – show some compassion, show some kindness and some consideration for people with addictions.
“We also try to guide them through harm reduction methodologies and also joining up with other services to ensure people are referred to them and getting the help that they need.”
Back in 20112, Fermanagh and Omagh district had one of the lowest alcohol-related mortality rates in the North when it posted a figure of 10.6 per 100,000 people. It has doubled over the years and Ormsby says greater access to alcohol and challenging circumstances has seen the rate rise.
He added: “I think there are a number of factors regarding this. Accessibility to alcohol has become greater over the last ten years. It’s available in other outlets than just off-licences and you can also purchase alcohol online and delivered to your front door.
“I also think that maybe more people are also becoming aware of the services available to them for alcohol addiction and are accessing them. So that will also show in the figures.
“Also, given the last decade has seen austerity, Covid and the cost of living crisis, people have been using alcohol as a coping strategy during challenging and difficult periods.
“Obviously, we would very much be encouraging people to be mindful of their alcohol intake – whether that be in quantity or the number of days when alcohol is consumed. And also to try and find other methods of coping – whether that be through talking to someone or physical exercise.
“What people require is hope and aspiration. Whatever guise or form that comes in, when times are hard it is important that there are opportunities provided to people to see brightness in the future.”
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