Mental Health - More lost to suicide than on the roads

IT is not surprising that the marked increase in suicide recorded during the so-called Celtic Tiger era should get worse in times of recession.

Given the stresses and strains besetting families whose incomes have plummeted disastrously in the current crisis, a new and worrying trend has been highlighted by Samaritans Ireland who warn that some people with suicidal feelings are not attending their doctors because of the high cost of GP visits.

For many years, this country has witnessed a virtual flood of suicides, with young males particularly vulnerable and prone to take their own lives. Indeed, according to the Samaritans, who perform marvellous work at the coalface of this appalling problem, men are four times more likely to take their own lives than women.

There can be no doubting that the recession has brought unbearable stress down on tens of thousands of families where the main earner has lost his or her job. With couples finding it impossible to keep up with mortgage and other payments, many are now in the grip of ruthless moneylenders, with all that implies.

A countrywide survey conducted last year by the national suicide prevention arm of the HSE, found that teenagers see family life as the primary influence on mental health.

A major part of the difficulty confronting men is that they find it hard to talk openly about their feelings, tending either to bottle up their problems or let them spiral out of control, sometimes with tragic consequences, according to the Samaritans. This suggests the estimate of one in 10 calls to their helpline being related directly to stresses caused by the recession is only the tip of an iceberg.

Despite considerable work to reduce suicide numbers at local, regional and national level, the death toll continues to climb, increasing by 28% to 527 people last year (422 men and 105 women). These stark figures far outnumber the death toll on Irish roads but yet they have far less impact on the public conscience. Though suicide is one of the biggest issues facing Ireland, we hardly talk about it.

Hopefully, the Government’s belated decision to finally grasp the nettle of Anglo Irish Bank will succeed in reducing uncertainty about Ireland in global financial markets.

Under EU pressure, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has opted to split Anglo into two entities consisting of deposit and ‘bad’ banks, the latter to be run down in time.

Unfortunately, the rogue bank has already cost the taxpayer billions of euro and more or less wrecked the economy. And for many a beleaguered person caught up in the financial maelstrom caused directly by Anglo Irish, this long overdue decision has come too late in the day.


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