“Why did it happen and what could I have done to prevent it?”
These are the two questions which will be asked in some household in Ireland in the next number of days.
“We didn’t see it coming. He was in such great form. She had just bought a new dress and was planning to be out for the weekend. I am so heartbroken. What am I doing to do now?”
The pain of the loss of suicide is unlike any other pain for the loss of a loved one, either through illness or accident because the shock that suicide brings with its loss leaves a feeling of emptiness and guilt for those who are left behind. I know because I lost a loved one through suicide.
Our charity 3Ts (turn the tide of suicide) is working towards changing the way that we look on those who have died by suicide, those who suffer from depression and/or those who suffer from any form of mental illness.
We continually try to work find answers to this age old problem and we have come to the firm conclusion that a Suicide Prevention Authority similar in structure to the Road Safety Authority can deliver an effective solution.
The reason somebody decides to take their own life are both complex and deep rooted but suicides can be preventable and with the right will at Government level and the right infrastructures in place within communities, Ireland can tackle this problem.
3Ts believes that a Suicide Prevention Authority could provide a solution.
Just as the Road Safety Authority has successfully helped reduce numbers dying on our roads, 3Ts believe that a well-focused and independent Suicide Authority with a clear mandate could similarly address the issue of suicide.
It would forge a cultural shift as well as maximise co-ordination and collaboration across the functions of health education & promotion, intervention, infrastructure and service provision, research and regulation.
Regulation and licencing of organisations and individuals (for instance, Counsellors and therapists who are currently not licenced); improved infrastructure and service provision; co-ordinated and nationally rolled out educational campaigns across the entire age cycle from promotion of positive mental health, to developing improved coping skills from an early age and for all age groups; developing policies which keep in line with technological developments (from service provision to newly emerging issues such as cyber bullying etc) and forging partnerships across the sectors to resource the various disciplines and inform the Authority at board level.
We believe the Authority could create an obligatory suicide prevention qualification for all Teachers, Counsellors, GP’s, Nurses, Gardai, Prison Wardens. An independent authority it would tackle the cosy cartels of banks, lending agencies and any “big brother” authority which puts pressure on ordinary people which ultimately leads to their untimely death.
As the country goes through a period of austerity, a Suicide Authority could serve to bring those responsible to heel by bringing them to Court and ensuring that for the first time ever they are made answerable to the pain and loss that they have brought about to the ordinary citizens of our country who because of such pressure are unable to cope and thus take their own lives.
We have some of the best services in the country which are not properly coordinated and we have some of the best and caring people trying to help those in danger of taking their own lives or helping those who have been left behind because of such a tragedy.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and in recognition of their great effort and their continuing efforts, we must give them the resources and the tools and most of all the independence to do the job that they are so capable of doing and thus turn the tide of suicide.
Noel Smyth is a businessman and solicitor. His registered charity 3Ts was established to deal with the issues of research, lobbying and the prevention of suicide in Ireland.