County with high rates of suicide launches service in effort to save lives

A service to prevent suicide has been launched in Co Kerry, which has one of the highest rates nationally of people taking their own lives.

Kerry LifeLine aims to reach out to the community in different ways, according to Geraldine Sheedy, the director of the South West Counselling Centre (SWCC). “It will provide a light to people when all they can see around them is darkness,” she said.

Kerry LifeLine will provide free one-to-one counselling to people who are feeling suicidal, or who are in crisis, and it is hoped they will have easy access to help when they need it.

The service will also support communities, families, schools, and clubs in the aftermath of a suicide — support that is regarded as essential.

Furthermore, it will provide suicide awareness and resilience training in schools for young people. “It will teach them problem-solving and coping skills so that they don’t look to suicide as a solution to their problems,” said Ms Sheedy.

She said increased suicide rates were reflected in the record number of people attending the Killarney-based SWCC.

The centre’s workload has also increased as it responded to schools and communities looking for help following a suicide.

“There has never been a greater need for Kerry LifeLine than right now,” she said at the service launch.

The SWCC, which reported a 15% rise in the number of people seeking its services in 2011, operates on a tight budget and receives no government funding for its free suicide prevention work.

Kerry LifeLine could not have been set up without a €84,000 contribution from the annual Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle, funding that “literally saves lives”, Ms Sheedy said.

Sean Coffey, principal at St Brendan’s College, Killarney, told the launch that cutbacks in education, including guidance services, were adding to pressures on young people.

He said schools with limited resources were trying to fight “normalisation” of suicide and self-harm in the upcoming generation. However, they could now refer the tiny minority of students and parents needing specialist support to LifeLine.

“Having specialist support counselling at times of tragedy in a school, as well as advice about how to manage a time of crisis in a school, is hugely welcomed,” he said.

Kerry footballer Eoin Brosnan has pledged the county team’s support.


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