A CROSS-PARTY Oireachtas group on mental health has been told there must be no funding cuts to mental health services as the recession increases the number of people committing suicide.
The group met following confirmation on Tuesday that the number of reported suicides for 2009 was 527, 24% higher than the previous year.
A number of experts in the area said the true figure for 2009 was almost certainly much higher due to non-reporting of suicide and the figure for 2010 would show another significant increase as the effects of the downturn took an even firmer hold.
The Oireachtas group was told there had been growing calls from suicide and mental health advocacy groups for protecting resources in light of possible cutbacks.
“We know economic recession increases the risk of suicide; dwindling resources and increasing demands on emotional support services for people in distress are exacerbating this risk,” said Suzanne Costello, director of the Samaritans Ireland spoke about the extended demands on her service which took approximately 15,000 additional calls last month. She said one in 10 calls were classified as recession related and 20% of callers would be classified as suicidal.
Orla Barry, Director of the Irish Mental Health Coalition, said one in four people will experience mental health difficulties in their lifetime and it is in times of particular crisis people are most vulnerable.
“The downturn in the economy is putting many people under extreme pressure and it is imperative Ireland’s mental health services are able to respond effectively,” she said.
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