Response to suicide crisis ‘scandalous’

States services and supports for those with mental health problems and the growing suicide crisis are “inadequate and scandalous”, a priest has stated.

Fr Tony O’Riordan, PP Moyross, Limerick, who was speaking at the funeral Mass of a man who died in the River Shannon, described the services as “pitifully inadequate, scandalous, and inexcusable”.

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) provisional figures, 475 people took their lives in 2013. Just under 200 people died on the roads last year.

The CSO figures show that, over an 11-year period, between 2000-2011, nearly 6,000 people died by suicide, including 4,818 males and 1,161 females.

Limerick is particularly hard-hit by suicides, which has resulted in a volunteer group patrolling the city’s bridges at night to try to prevent further deaths.

Limerick City and County Council also recently confirmed it plans to implement a plan by local student Katie Whelan to light up Thomond Bridge in the city with anti-suicide messages.

Exasperated by so many young people taking their lives, Fr O’Riordan asked: “When will we get a health service that is responsive to the needs of people experiencing emotional crisis or a mental health crisis?”

He criticised the State’s handling of the suicide crisis and called for an end to the “fractious nature of the services within our health system that ought to be able to respond with care and effectiveness to the needs of someone in turmoil and distress”.

“The current configuration of services, the attitudes of many working in those services and the standards of care are pitifully inadequate, scandalous and inexcusable,” Fr O’Riordan said during his homily at Corpus Christi Church in Moyross.

“When will we shout enough is enough? People in emotional crisis are at their most vulnerable, and so too are their families and those with whom they live. However, too often, far too often, a person, be they child or adult or elderly, when faced with mental unwellness, [is] more likely to get judgement, silo-like referral, and ultimately wholly inadequate or a meaningless response.

“We can, and we ought to do better.”

According to the latest report by the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP), “significant progress” has been”.

It said that the HSE funding available to NOSPhad increased by almost 100% since 2011 to €8.1m in 2013.

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