Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today planted ‘A Tree of Hope’ at the Muirhevnamor Community Centre in Dundalk in “remembrance of all of those who have died by suicide; those who have survived, including the bereaved families; and as evidence of our collective determination to encourage the allocation of more resources to tackle suicide.”
The event was organised by the Muirhevnamor Community Council. The Louth TD thanked the Council for organising the tree planting and all of those groups and individuals who provide services for those at risk of suicide and self-harm. He also welcomed the announcement at the weekend by the Sinn Féin Health Minister in the North, Michelle O’Neill MLA, to launch a consultation on Protect Life 2 – a strategy for suicide prevention in that part of the island.
Teachta Adams said:
“I want to welcome Minister O’Neill’s initiative. This is an important effort to meet the challenge of suicide. The Minister for Health in this state also needs to review the current mental health and suicide strategies.
I believe that only through joined up mental health and suicide strategies on this island can we effectively tackle these difficult issues. A mark of Sinn Féin’s commitment on this issue is that our Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald insisted on taking up this brief.
The 2017 Budget is due for publication in early October. This will be the real test of the government’s commitment to mental health services. There has to be greater investment in mental health programmes, including 24 seven access to services for people who need it.
Later this month as a contribution to this Sinn Fein will be holding a conference in Dublin on dual diagnosis. Sinn Féin will also be training our staff in suicide prevention practices.
The sad reality is that there is not a single family on this island that has not been affected by the challenge of mental health issues. Linked to this is the issue of suicide. It is now believed that the real figure for suicide across the island of Ireland is as high as 1,000 people annually.
The emotional impact on families and communities is huge. Many are left wondering why someone decides to take their life and if they could have prevented it.
In the aftermath of a suicide, especially of a young person, the potential of others also taking their own lives is high.
I remember visiting the wake homes of four young victims from the Upper Springfield area in west Belfast who had all died from suicide within days of each other.
There is no single or easy explanation for someone deciding to take their life. In my experience the reasons can be many; mental health problems, loneliness, alcohol and substance misuse, an absence of hope for the future, can all contribute to suicide. There is also a clear and direct correlation between deprivation and suicide.
In every statistical analysis that I have read areas of high unemployment and deprivation suffer greater levels of suicide. At the same time, suicide is no respecter of class or age or gender.
In addition this state has the fourth highest rate of suicide among teenagers within the European Union. The Psychological Society of Ireland called last week for a greater focus on the threat of suicide among teens. This requires the introduction of preventative strategies to tackle mental health issues among young people. Intervention at an early stage is much better than trying to deal with the aftermath of a suicide.
Critically, an all-island suicide prevention strategy which coordinates mental health agencies on the island and manages resources more effectively is essential. Responsibility for this lies with the governments.