Shaken communities unite for vigil amid spate of suicides

The spotlight will be thrown on Ireland's suicide crisis tomorrow when communities rocked by a spate of suicides unite for a special vigil to remember those who died, and to offer support and advice to those left behind.

Organisers of tomorrow night’s candlelight vigil at The Lough amenity on Cork city’s southside said they hope the event, part of a wider community response, will encourage people to come together support each other and reflect.

The 7pm vigil will feature music and will be attended by representatives of Pieta House, Cork Mental Health Foundation, and the HSE who will be available to provide information on the supports available.

The organisers, drawn from local sports clubs, businesses, scouts, and public representatives, will also hold a special information evening on Monday.

The HSE confirmed last week it is working to identify what extra supports may be needed for communities in the wake of several suicides in the space of a few weeks.

At least four people from the area have died by suspected suicide since October 1. They were men and women, ranging in age from their mid teens to late 40s. In one community organisation alone, its members have buried three members in the space of a month.

Majella Cremin, one of the organisers of tomorrow night’s vigil, said the city as a whole, and in particular, the southside communities of Togher, Ballyphehane, and the Lough, have been “devastated” and “deeply affected” by the deaths: “It has been a traumatic and deeply upsetting time for us all as a community — many of us know many families that have been affected.

“I think it is important at this time that we come together, and organise a community response.

“We are hoping that it will offer some comfort and support to the families affected, give people information about the services that are available, and bring us closer together as a community.

“We want the message to go out that there are always people in this community ready to listen when people are in need of support.”

People have also been encouraged to attend a free community information session with experts from Pieta House at the Lough Scout Hall on the grounds of the Lough Church, at 7.30pm next Monday.

It will provide information and advice on how to be aware of someone who may have suicidal thoughts, and how to respond to that.

Independent Cllr Mick Finn, who works in a school project on the southside, has called on the agencies involved in the city’s critical incident response planning group, which convenes at times of civic emergencies such as flooding, to devise a plan to tackle the suicide epidemic that is “ripping the heart” out of families and communities: “Attending funerals of two young people I knew in the last week I saw the utter devastation suicide causes. We must act.

“There are some who simply do not see the urgency of building up pre-emptive rather than reactive strategies to address this.”

He hailed Pieta House which has seen its team of therapists in Cork grow from two in December 2013 to 22. Some 2,000 people have accessed its services — 600 so far this year.

  • You can access support and advice from the HSE South 24/7 free-phone Suicide Prevention Helpline 1800 742 745; the national 24/7 helpline 1800 247 247; Samaritans 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org; and Pieta House 021-4274218 or www.pieta.ie.


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