A NATIONAL suicide prevention agency is to open a new centre in the southwest in response to what it says is a "huge need" for its services.
Console has announced plans to open its largest centre to date in Tralee, Co Kerry, which down the line has the potential to provide residential care to people who use its services.
Up to now, the southwest has been catered for by Console's centres in Cork and Limerick but the demand for its services is so strong in Kerry the charity felt the county needed its own full-time resource centre.
The centre is to be based at the McAuley Home in Balloonagh, Tralee, which is owned by the Sisters of Mercy and has been leased to Console.
Console director of services Ciaran Austin says the Tralee centre will be the organisation's largest to date. The agency also provides full-time services from its centres in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick and Wexford.
"We've been covering Kerry from our Cork and Limerick centres whenever there's been a critical incident where someone has taken their own life in the workplace or at a GAA club but there are huge issues with suicide in Kerry and we believe it deserves a full-time resource centre," Mr Austin told the Irish Independent.
According to Central Statistics Office figures, Kerry has the sixth highest rate of suicide nationally.
Console estimates that the actual figure for the number of people who take their own lives is considerably higher.
Console also offers bereavement counselling to people affected by suicide and is 30pc funded from the Health Service Executive, which it advises on ethical and clinical standards in dealing with suicide.
However, Mr Austin has also appealed to businesses and community groups to get behind the Tralee centre to support it.
"Console is only too aware of the high incidence of suicide in Kerry in recent times and is committed to . . . help people who have lost loved ones and to prevent further tragedy.
"Although we have secured the premises, we will be calling for support on the ground in Kerry to open the doors on this centre so we can be up and running in six months time," he added.
The agency provides counselling services and 24-hour helpline support to people in crisis and those bereaved by suicide. Its free helpline number is 1800 201 890 or people can visit www.console.ie.