An early-warning system to identify emerging clusters of suicide and self-harm will be introduced in Cork early in the new year.
And a major suicide prevention plan for Cork and Kerry — the first coordinated plan of its kind in the region which aims to reduce the rates of suicide by 10% over the next five years — should be launched within three months.
The news emerged yesterday during a meeting of a multi-agency taskforce which was convened following the deaths of 10 people by suspected suicide in the city since October.
Gardaí told the meeting that there have been 34 confirmed suicides in the city since the start of the year — compared with 28 in 2015 and 22 in 2014.
Ella Arensman of the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) said the figures surged from October, with three confirmed and three probable cases of suicide in the city that month alone. Figures for the county are still being compiled.
Clear links between at least two of those cases sparked concerns about an emerging suicide cluster, and triggered a coordinated crisis response by the HSE.
Prof Arensman said that, since the start of November, there have been three more confirmed cases of suicide in the city and one probable case.
Pieta House in Cork said it has seen a massive increase in its caseload in that time, from an average of 40 cases a day to almost 100, with extra therapists drafted in to help.
“We have been shocked and horrified by the deluge of pain which has come through the doors,” said spokeswoman Sylvia O’Driscoll.
However, she said they have been able to respond to most calls for help within 24 hours, and stressed that there is hope, help, and supports for those in crisis.
Prof Arensman said they have secured funding to improve a suicide and self-harm tracking system after evidence showed a link between self-harm clusters and the emergence up to six months later of suicide clusters nearby.
Using specialist expertise from the National Centre for Geocomputation at Maynooth University, she said the system will lead to improved early identification of emerging clusters of self-harm and suicide.
“The use of real-time information will facilitate the activation and implementation of local plans to respond to suicide and self-harm clusters, and the local allocation of resources to prevent further suicide and self-harm,” she said.
The meeting, called for by councillor Mick Finn, and chaired by Lord Mayor Des Cahill, was attended by key figures in the statutory and voluntary sector working in suicide support and prevention.
Housing Minister Simon Coveney, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, and several TDs from the city also attended.
Mr Martin said the meeting highlighted the importance of working with young people from the earliest ages to build up their resilience and self-esteem and the importance of restoring ex-quota career guidance counsellors in schools as soon as possible.
He also urged the Government to spend the full extra €35m already committed to implementing the Vision for Change programme, after it emerged recently that only €15m of the extra allocation will be spent.
“It was very clear from all the representative groupings who spoke that all of them could do with additional resources,” Mr Martin said.
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