A leading suicide prevention campaigner has claimed politicians are more likely to “wring their hands” about the tragedies than make money available to save the lives of other people at risk.
Turn the Tide of Suicide chairman Noel Smyth, who co-founded the 24/7 medic-manned 1Life helpline, insisted there will be no real change in addressing the issue until words turn into action.
Mr Smyth was speaking after recent political calls for a wider debate on suicide and the potential for a more joined-up prevention system.
Calls were made by a number of TDs in the aftermath of the death of 15-year-old Shannon Gallagher in Donegal, just six weeks after the death of her 13-year-old sister, Erin.
While Mr Smyth said any genuine attempt to address suicide in Ireland should be commended, he believes public comments from those in power often lead to little or no action.
“Politicians wring their hands and individual events focus the mind for a period of time,” said Mr Smyth. “But once the heat has gone out of the circumstance, it’s back to the status quo.
“People forget that every week — and the statistics show this — 14 or 15 people die by suicide here.
“While you have high-profile cases that get media attention, as they should, the underlying pain and loss of all these deaths is not addressed.”
Mr Smyth said a practical step in addressing the suicide rates, which can be easily achieved, is to conduct an audit of all suicide prevention resources in Ireland.
This, he said, should include the gardaí, social services, and schools, and would help to highlight where overlaps occur and where chronic gaps exist despite a relatively large number of voluntary groups attempting to address the issue.
“This has never been done in Ireland,” said Mr Smyth. “There’s loads of models, from Scotland to Sweden to Australia, that show how to do this, and it would throw up examples of the huge holes in services, but that would then lead to calls for more money to be made available. Right now that’s not going to happen.
“Voluntary services are as good as they can be in solving a certain amount of the problem, but what we should be looking towards is an over-arching group like the road safety authority only for suicide.
“The Road Safety Authority shows that an independent organisation supported by the State and followed through with legislation can save lives, but you need the political will to do it and at the moment that is non-existent,” he said.
* Childline: 1800 666 666 or text “talk” to 50101;
* Samaritans: 1890 200 091;
* Console: 1800 201 890;
* 1Life: 1800 247 100 or text “help” to 51444;
* HSE (6pm-10pm) 1800 742 745.
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