Government ‘treats suicide deaths as second class’

A LEADING suicide prevention campaigner has claimed Government is effectively treating the tragedies as “second-class deaths” by failing to provide adequate funding to combat the crisis.

Noel Smyth, chairman of the Turning the Tide of Suicide (3Ts) organisation, made the allegation after figures revealed 527 people officially died by suicide in Ireland last year, a 24% annual increase, and the highest level recorded in this country.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, the campaigner, whose group worked with Console to set up the 24-hour specialist counselling help-line 1Life, said Ireland now has a “cultural problem” as suicide has become “embedded in our society”.

He said the decision to add just €1 million to the €5.6m 2010 suicide prevention budget after the latest figures emerged – making the total provision seven times less than that for road safety and more than €5,000 less than the banking bailout – underlined the lack of urgency in addressing the problem.

“I’m sorry to say this but an extra €1m is a drop in the ocean when you consider what is available to road safety.

“A person dying in an accident is more important than a person who has taken their own life, that’s what the Government are saying and that is absolutely dreadful,” he claimed.

When asked if the level of funding was because the reasons for a suicide are more complex, he added: “It’s not a complex situation, it’s a very simple situation. We are losing people hand over fist and it is not acceptable. We still have a cultural problem in the sense that suicide is still seen as a second-class death.

“I don’t want to go back on the deaths of the young people who died in the crash in Kerry, but at the same time as that happened young people died by suicide and there’s no public grieving for them.

“We see suicide as embedded in our society now, and therefore we accept it,” he warned.

Speaking on the same programme, Geoff Day, director of the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention, described the annual rise in deaths as “unexpected in its magnitude” and above recession-linked international trends.

He confirmed that while suicide continues to occur in all age groups and both sexes, since the economic crisis began there has been a clear spike in deaths among people aged between 25 and 44.

Mr Day said this was particularly the case for those who have “lost their jobs and found the recession to be very difficult in terms of finances and broken relationships”.

However, the HSE’s most senior suicide prevention expert rejected calls for an independent suicide prevention authority to be set up.

Suicide prevention groups have argued such an organisation would more accurately calculate the real number of suicides in Ireland; would help to increase funding for almost 500 groups across the country; and more effectively campaign for improved support services, regardless of Government policy.

Support groups

- 1Life, 24-hour specialist helpline staffed by trained counsellors and psychotherapists: 1800 247100

- HSE helpline 6pm to 10pm: freephone 1800 742745

- Bereavement support: www.console.ie

- Teen mental health: www.letsomeoneknow.ie


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