John Gilroy, who worked as a psychiatric nurse in St Stephen’s Hospital, Glanmire, Co Cork, for 27 years — until becoming a senator last year — has been tasked with tackling the country’s increasing suicide problem.
He has been appointed as Raporteur (compiler) on Suicide Prevention to the Joint Oireachtas Committee and plans to hold the first national meeting in Cork
He assumed the role because of his years of behind-the-scenes work trying to prevent vulnerable teenagers, in particular, from taking their own lives after suicide clusters emerged a few years ago in his home town of Glanmire and in nearby Mayfield, on the outskirts of Cork City.
Figures on suicide show 486 people took their own lives across the country in 2009, and another 527 in 2010.
The actual figure, according to Mr Gilroy, could be far higher. “In 2009, a further 195 died of undetermined intent and 123 in 2010. International evidence would suggest 30% to 50% of these cases were as a result of suicide.
“Therefore, it’s entirely possible in those two years the number of suicides equates to the entire population of a small Irish town.”
In 2009, there were 93 recorded suicides in Cork, which was one-in-six of the national figure.
It remains the leading cause of death in young men aged 16-24.
“I pushed to get the Oireachtas appointment because I know too many young people who have taken their own lives,” he said.
For the past six months, he has been consulting with professional agencies and organisations, community and voluntary groups in an effort to find ways to stem the number of deaths.
“I now wish to extend this consultation to include members of the general public. I think almost everyone has been touched by suicide and many people will have opinions on what needs to be done. I want to hear from everyone and see if there are any insights to be gained in listening.”
The Cork public consultation meeting will take place at the Vienna Woods Hotel, Glanmire at 8pm on Jun 25. A further meeting will be held at Newgrange Hotel, Navan, Co Meath, on Jun 29.
The senator said he hopes to hold similar meetings in every county in Ireland in the coming months.