A senior garda says there's no doubt in his mind that a notable increase in the number of Cork people taken into protective custody due to mental health issues can be attributed to the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns.
Chief Superintendent Con Cadogan told a meeting of the Cork City and County JPC (Joint Policing Committee) the number of people detained by gardaí for their own protection under the Mental Health Treatment Acts rose in the region from 538 in 2020 to 741 last year.
In West Cork, the number increased from 77 to 109, from 105 to 199 in north Cork and from 356 to 433 in Cork City.
He described the increases as distressing. The senior garda released the information after Independent councillor Frank Roche, an avid campaigner for better mental health services for the farming community, said that last weekend yet another of his farmer friends had taken his own life.
Mr Roche said he is constantly being called by farming families, or others in isolated rural communities, to help out those with mental health issues.
Chief Supt Cadogan said the calls for help were coming from all aspects of society and community, with the gardaí obliged under the acts to hold a person until they're medically assessed.
Both he and Mr Roche said unfortunately those who need the most help more often than not don't seek it and instead take their own lives.
“The farming community is seeing a lot of depression. A lot of farmers are afraid to talk to the authorities. I'm trying to help these people, but sadly nobody from the towns or cities is coming to me,” Mr Roche said.
Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy said he's convinced farmers and those living in rural isolation in general have suffered significant mental health issues during Covid lockdowns.
“Some farmers were able to go to the pub (for social interaction) or outside the church gates to meet friends, but that all stopped during Covid and as a result this has had a major impact (on their mental health),” Mr Murphy said.
Fine Gael councillor Michael Paul Murtagh, who works as a fireman in Cork City, said he has had to deal with a lot of deaths by suicide through his job and maintained many are connected.
He pointed out there are many organisations working to prevent suicides and in particular people suffering mental health problems should contact volunteers at Pieta House.