“Working Together to Prevent Suicide in Ireland”

10th September, 2012

10th September
2012

HSE National Office
for Suicide Prevention 2012 Forum

“Working
Together to Prevent Suicide in Ireland”

 

Today the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention marks World
Suicide Prevention Day by gathering together over 130 participants from funded
agencies and partner organisations to share evidence-based best practice on the
theme “Working Together to Prevent Suicide in Ireland”. World Suicide Prevention is held across the global on annual
basis and the aim of the day is to generate awareness of policy and
interventions that can make a difference to prevent
suicide.

 

This forum is taking place at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, hosted
by Mr. Martin Rogan, HSE, Assistant National Director for Mental Health and will
include a key note speech by Professor Steve Platt, Professor of Health Policy
Research, University of Edinburgh on “Suicide Prevention – What
Works?”.

 

Recognising that suicide and self-harm is a significant public health
issue in Ireland, one of the key components of today’s forum is a ‘Round Table’
session to identify opportunities for better coordination  of suicide prevention
initiatives across the range of organisations to ensure full and effective
implementation of the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention ‘Reach
Out’.

 

Suicide is preventable. Early intervention is essential, two of the
presentations at today’s forum highlight how early intervention programmes
targeted at people at risk of suicide at both a primary care and within
emergency department will help prevent suicide in Ireland. A large-scale research study on more than 14,000 young people
aged between 12 and 25 years living in Ireland and published this year by Headstrong and UCD shows that rates
of suicidal thoughts and self harm were higher in young adults who did not seek
help or talk about their problems.

 

Talking about problems is known to reduce and lower mental health
distress and is associated with higher positive adjustment. We need to
consistently build on the message that it’s okay to talk and that we need to
talk about and share our worries and concerns.

 

Mental Health has been cited in the top 5 concerns for young people
in Ireland today, they fully recognise the benefits of talking through
concerns and they greatly value the work of the organisations that provide the
opportunity to listen and help. Another encouraging sign is that young people in
Ireland not only seek positive mental health for themselves, but are
keen to support their peers at times of distress.

 

We also need to target out efforts at reducing risk factors for
suicide but to foster and strengthen protective factors, especially in early
childhood and adolescence. Community groups have a vital role to play here and
it is simply not possible to progress this agenda without strong community
engagement and active support.

 

Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Older People,
Equality & Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch
said “I will not cease to do all in my power
to stop the tragedy of suicide. Here and now I call on everybody in society to
watch out for their loved ones and to talk, as talking and sharing and seeking
help when we need it is at the heart of the solution. We have to all work
together on that”.  The Minister praised all the work that individuals,
communities, the many voluntary bodies, NOSP and the HSE does and encouraged
everyone to become even more vigilant.

 

Mr. Martin Rogan, HSE, Assistant National Director for Mental Health
stated that “over the last number of years, there has been a growth in the
number and range of organisations working in the area of mental health and
suicide prevention. Each organisation is working hard to make a difference to
the individuals, families and communities they support. Given the extraordinary
challenges to our economy, we need to do even more to improve the mental health
of at-risk groups. We need to find new ways to work collaboratively to better
marshal our efforts and ensure the greatest possible impact on our shared
objective of reducing suicide in Ireland. It is important that we have a coherent approach and reach out
to people with consistent messages.”

 

Findings in the Headstrong/UCD study also show that excessive use of
alcohol is associated with poor mental health and wellbeing. This study found
that depression and anxiety were significantly higher when a young person
engaged in harmful drinking or was possibly becoming alcohol dependent.
Particularly among adolescents, harmful drinking is linked to heightened anxiety
levels well above the norm. Therefore mental health programmes focused on
adolescence need to address the risk factors for both poor mental health but
also substance misuse.

 

Speaking at the forum, Professor Platt stated “We know that certain
strategies, such as restriction of access to lethal means of suicide,
psychosocial treatments following self-harm, training for community gatekeepers,
the education of GPs and the recognition and treatment of depression can be
successful. One of the central challenges for the 21st century, however, is to
develop more robust evidence to support suicide prevention strategies and
programmes.”

 

The HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention invests and works on
a range of measures to prevent suicide in Ireland. It funds 42 programmes in 27 organisations such as Console,
Samaritans, Pieta House to deliver services and support. These programmes
include; suicide prevention training, health education campaigns, research and
providing funding to agencies that directly respond to people in crisis and to
families bereaved through suicide.