Independent councillor Declan Hurley, who was at rock bottom when he almost lost his dairy farm, during the 2013 fodder crisis, said he feels “proud and humbled” that his decision to speak out about his own difficulties saved lives.
“It was a very stressful and emotional time. It all got to a point where it got critical, in terms of mental health,” he said. “I spoke out to give other farmers a voice.
“Thankfully, the help that eventually came, came at the right time.”
He was speaking yesterday at the launch of a four-year suicide and self-harm prevention action plan for Cork.
Mr Hurley said the fodder crisis impacted greatly on Ireland’s farming communities.
“I was in a position where I couldn’t provide adequate feed for my animals,” he said.
“I wasn’t the only person in that situation. There were many farms out there in worse situations than I was.
“But I felt, in my position as a public representative, I had to speak out and raise the issue to make sure it was heard.
“Humbly, I can say that there were lives saved at the time, because it highlighted the problem.
“People knew that there were other people out there who were prepared to step up to the mark, and, certainly, I am proud of myself that I was in a position to help people in that capacity”.
He said that support agencies and bodies “need to react sooner rather than later”.
Mr Hurley said that parallels could be drawn between the official response to the fodder crisis and those bodies charged with responding to the problem of suicide.
But he said everyone has a role to play in tackling the complex issue of suicide.
“This is about communities realising that we all have a role to play in dealing with suicide and self-harm,” he said.
“I view it like like a predator — you don’t see it until it raises its head.
“But it’s knowing how to deal with it, and knowing that a simple, one-minute chat could be a turning point in a person making that decision. That can make an awful difference in a person’s life.
“I hold regular clinics with constituents and when they come in and sit down and have a problem, the sheer opportunity of talking through that issue, I can see it in their face, I can see the weight coming off their shoulders, and they go out a happier person.”