65% of homeless attempted suicide

Almost two thirds of clients who took part in a pilot study run by Dublin Simon said they had made at least one previous suicide attempt.

The figure is contained in an interim report on measures to manage suicidal ideation among the homeless population, alongside the announcement of funding for a specific out-of-hours counselling service for the homeless.

The report, entitled Opening the Door to Hope, involved 17 clients working with Dublin Simon Community’s Sure Step Counselling Service, and 30 Simon staff receiving collaborative assessment and management of suicidality (CAMS) training.

According to the report, 64.7% of participants reported at least one previous suicide attempt — a figure that echoes previous research in the area.

According to the report: “Recent national research has been conducted by the registry of deliberate self-harm in Ireland who monitors the incidence and repetition of self-harm presentations to hospital accident and emergency departments with the aim of identifying high-incidence groups for suicide.

“Self-harm has been identified as a high indicator of suicide vulnerability and is startlingly high among the homeless community. The researchers reported that homeless individuals were 22 times more likely to present in A&E for self-harm than domiciled individuals.”

Reasons provided for thinking about suicide among the client group in the study included ‘escape’ — general, from pain, or from the past. Family was given as the main reason for living.

Those behind the interim report stressed that the findings were “preliminary”, but said there were indications of a reduction of core suicidal beliefs and other benefits, with “the need for a full-service implementation as well as improvements to the CAMS training”.

“There is ultimately a need to provide an alternative therapeutic intervention for people who are homeless who are expressing suicide ideation, which is fully funded, to allow a 24/7, round-the-clock service as an alternative to A&E for clients,” they said.

Meanwhile, John Meehan, head of the National Office for Suicide Prevention, announced funding for a pilot out-of-hours counselling service for Dublin Simon Community, a move welcomed by Derek Dempsey, manager of Dublin Simon Community’s Sure Steps Counselling Service.

“Many of the people we work with have been exposed to some form of previous trauma, and they can often have severe mental health and substance use issues,” he said.

“Through our daily work we see the urgent need for interventions, at any time of the day.”

Read the report here

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