The mob culture of cyberbullying is destroying the happiness of far too many people, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said yesterday.
He said young people were living in a virtual world where a “bit of fun” could become virtual torture.
“Often for some children, unfortunately, cyberbullying turns the sanctuary of the home, your own home, into a virtual arena, a public pit devoid of cover, or humanity, or mercy,” he said.
Mr Kenny yesterday launched Connecting for Life, a national strategy for suicide prevention.
Referring to children who had taken their lives because of cyberbullying, Mr Kenny said there were no lights in the world they found themselves in.
“How many examples have we of this over the last number of years,” he asked, saying it was crucial that young people learned, at school, about staying safe on the internet.
“My own children are moving through life and all their friends are on Facebook, like millions of others. It’s all very fine until someone infiltrates it and picks out a vulnerable person.
“What we have to do is convince our young people that they were already of immeasurable value simply because they exist.”
Earlier, Mr Kenny said the Berkeley balcony tragedy which claimed the lives of six young Irish students in California was a “masterclass” in what being connected meant and how it should be achieved.
He said the strategy was about Ireland working to watch over life and lives and to prevent suicide where possible.
“Connecting for Life is an ambitious strategy which sets a target to reduce suicide and self-harm by 10% over the next five years,” Mr Kenny said.
“As a Government, despite financial constraints, we have maintained and will continue to maintain mental health as a priority.
“Suicide prevention is everyone’s concern and this strategy is a national plan for the whole of Government and the whole of society to work together.”
Minister for Primary Care, Social Care, and Mental Health Kathleen Lynch said mental health was as important as physical health.
“We are finally seeing a breakthrough in some of the recruitment challenges that didn’t allow us to provide as extensive a service as we would like,” she said.
The two primary goals of Connecting for Life are to reduce suicide and self-harm in the population and among specified priority groups.
It has identified the World Health Organisation’s target of a 10% reduction in the rates of suicide by 2020 as the minimum objective.
CSO data shows that between 2007 and 2011, there was an increase in the suicide rate in Ireland, particularly among men. Recent figures indicate a reversal in trends.
Figures for 2012 show 541 people died by suicide while provisional figures for 2013 (475 deaths) and 2014 (459 deaths) show decreases.
The charity Suicide or Survive welcomed the strategy. Chief executive Caroline McGuigan said: “There was a robust national consultation to help s develop this road map in how, together, we will reduce the loss of life through suicide.”