A large number attended Clonmel’s first information evening on Suicide Awareness, which was held on Wednesday evening in Hotel Minella.
The evening was organised by Clonmel man Joe Leahy, and included speakers from various organisations, all of whom work in the areas of suicide prevention, suicide bereavement and mental health. Joe’s concern about this issue goes back 25 years, when a close friend suffered the loss of a child by suicide. At that time, Joe explained, there was little help or support available for his friend and his family. Even worse, the stigma associated with a death by suicide was immense, all-pervasive and made it even more difficult for the family to cope with their grief.
When studying for a B.A. five years ago, Joe presented two research projects on the issue of suicide awareness and concluded that the stigma associated with suicide continued into the 21st century. He realised that for many people, suicide remains a taboo subject - not to be mentioned or spoken of.
Determined to bring the tragedy of suicide out into the open, Joe, a long-time member of the Irish Association of Suicidology, organised this recent information evening in Clonmel with the aim of lifting this stigma that surrounds the tragedy of suicide. All the Speakers on Wednesday’s panel and the large audience who attended the event were united and vocal in their support of the need to talk more openly about this issue.
The evening provided a lot of information – about the topic of suicide and also about the various supports and organisations that exist to help people who are in crisis, struggling with issues or who have been bereaved by suicide.
Dan Neville, President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, presented some disturbing statistics. Each year in Ireland, almost 500 people die by suicide. In comparison, 212 people were killed in road traffic accidents in 2010. A further disturbing fact is that although Ireland’s suicide rate remains relatively low in global terms, we rank 4th in the world for the highest number of suicides amongst young men aged between 15 and 24.
Behind each heartbreaking statistic like this, is a grieving family. The grief of suicide is like no other. Alongside the anguish are the questions, the “what ifs”, the huge and unanswerable “why?” Living Links is an organisation that offers help and support to those bereaved by suicide.
Michael Egan from Living Links, spoke simply and eloquently about their work, and how his organisation can offer help and support to these families.
There were three speakers from the HSE, all of whom were involved in some way in the area of suicide prevention. Helen Ellis explained her role as Self-Harm Liaison Nurse based in Clonmel, and spoke of the work that is done by her team, in A&E, and also out in the community.
The innovative work being carried out by Sean McCarthy, Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention, and his team in the South-East was described in detail. Some of the projects developed by this team are now being rolled out to other areas, and Sean also outlined some training programmes which have been devised to ensure that further help and support will be available in the near future.
Finally, Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Caitriona Crowe from the Mental Health Service in South Tipperary spoke passionately about the need to listen, hear and give time to those in crisis. She gave an excellent summary on the signs of depression and how to identify someone who may be suffering from depression.
People attending the evening were provided with information packs from the Irish Association of Suicidology (IAS) as well as literature, brochures, leaflets and contact details of various support organisations such as AWARE, CONSOLE, One Life, Suicide or Survive, St Vincent de Paul and the Samaritans.
Examples of the subjects covered in leaflets included:
Risk Factors and Myths about Suicide; If you are feeling suicidal; Living with a suicidal person: What families can do; Depression: Signs, symptoms & risk factors; Teen Depression; Managing grief and loss after suicide; and Helping/supporting someone who is grieving
If you missed or were unable to attend the open meeting on Wednesday last, or would like to know more about suicide awareness, Joe intends organising a second such open information evening in Clonmel in early October 2012.
Helpful contact numbers:
AWARE 1890 303 302; CONSOLE 1800 201 890; ONE LIFE 1800 247 100; SUICIDE or SURVIVE 1890 577 577; LIVING LINKS 087 4122052; SAMARITANS 1850 60 90 90; Irish Association of Suicidology 01 667 4900.