Suicide prevention and support services have been told to expect funding cuts for a third year in a row, it was revealed today.
Despite Government commitments to increase spending in the area by €1m to €5.5m, charities said they have been warned budgets will be hit again in January.
Console, a leading counselling charity, said it will struggle to cope with more than 150 at risk people already on waiting lists for support.
“People’s lives are at stake. We have been told already we are to be cut again,” founder Paul Kelly said.
“The reality is that we have to respond as quickly as possible to our calls. I know that we are dealing with critical, real life and death situations.
“We are fearful we can’t maintain our level of service. It’s going to be impossible if funding is constantly cut. It’s inevitable the service will suffer.”
Console’s budget was cut by 12.5% in 2009 and 6.5% this year. It is estimated funding could fall by another 4% in January.
Mr Kelly also hit out at the funding differences between road safety and suicide prevention with the Road Safety Authority working from a 40m euro budget.
“You can see the impact that €40m has had reducing road deaths. And if they are only willing to give €5m to suicide prevention that’s abysmal. We should be up in arms about it,” he said.
Official figures published in the summer show a record 527 people killed themselves last year, a 24%t increase on 2008.
Despite the charity’s claim, the Health Service Executive insisted budgets for next year have not been decided.
Console, which offers counselling to thousands of people every week, is expecting hundreds of people bereaved by suicide to attend its conference on Friday to mark World Suicide Prevention Day.
Mr Kelly warned the state of the economy was a massive source of anxiety.
“We get people phoning our helpline who are impacted by the downturn. People in debt, being made redundant, fear of repossession and then marital strain,” he said.
The group, which raises almost three quarters of its budget through charity, also held a remembrance walk in the Phoenix Park with friends and relatives of those who lost loved ones by suicide.