Thirty suicides already this year from all walks of life
The increase in people taking their own lives is relentless, with five deaths on New Year's Day, writes Jim Cusack
an average of almost three people a day have taken their own lives since the start of the start of the year, with five people committing suicide on New Year's Day. By last Wednesday, 30 people, mostly men, had committed suicide.
It is known that the period just after Christmas and New Year is one of the worst times of the year for suicides -- but emergency workers and gardai throughout the country have said that this year seems to have been worse than ever.
New Year's Day is said to have been particularly distressing for gardai and emergency workers. The five suicides on that day is thought to be a record, although statistics are often incomplete.
Emergency services personnel say it is likely that more people committed suicide than is recorded and that some of those recorded as missing persons are almost certainly suicides. There were strong westerly winds blowing for most of the Christmas and New Year period and anything entering the sea could have been blown towards Wales.
There is no pattern in the latest recorded suicides except that a majority are men and the type of death chosen is usually hanging. Some went to elaborate lengths and made very detailed preparations. At least one shot himself with a legally held gun.
After the five deaths on New Year's Day, three more were recorded on January 2; one on January 3; two on the 4th; four on the 5th; three on the 6th; three on the 8th; three on the 9th and two last Tuesday, January 10.
The deaths are spread out all around the country and bridge all age, financial and family circumstances.
One of those who died was a 32-year-old mother of two, who drove off Howth Pier on January 4. The incident prompted calls for barriers to be erected. Nine people have driven to their deaths from the pier in the past three years.
December was also a bad month. In an incident at Malahide Station on December 15, a woman stepped in front of the Belfast Enterprise, which passes through the station at over 100kmh.
Four days before Christmas, the Irish Times literary editor, Caroline Walsh, walked into the sea off the West Pier in Dun Laoghaire and drowned. Also last month, a woman in her 40s, a mother of three, drove off Teelin Pier in Co Donegal and drowned.
At least three times more people are now dying from suicide than on the roads, reflecting a remarkable growth in suicide deaths which appear, from available statistics, to have trebled in number since the Eighties.
Currently, around 600 suicides take place each year, while road deaths have declined from about the same figure in the Eighties to around 200.
Several semi-state and voluntary agencies have been set up in recent years to tackle the issue. These agencies have produced large numbers of studies and information on where depressed people should seek assistance. Yet these appear to have had no impact and the number of deaths has continued to grow.
The issue was raised repeatedly by deputies in the Dail last year and one TD, Derek Keating from Dublin Mid West, devoted his maiden speech to the subject. A cross-party group of TDs raised money for one of the suicide groups by recording a choral piece for Christmas.
The Government set up a National Office for Suicide Prevention in 2005, which receives and disburses around €9m a year to up to 30 suicide-awareness groups. The office lectures people in suicide awareness and "funds resource officers for suicide prevention, self-harm nurses in accident and emergency departments and the development of local suicide-prevention initiatives".
While the official policy appears to be concentrating on counselling and information-gathering, some people are now questioning if there should not be practical attention paid to locations where suicides occur most frequently to see if people can be physically prevented from killing themselves or talked out of it.
Residents in the apartment complexes along Dublin's quays, particularly around the Grand Canal Basin, have been calling for physical barriers to prevent people from driving into the water.
Local resident Esther Uzell warned about the danger after five suicides, including that of a young man who drove his van into the dock in full view of residents and passers-by.
"There will be more tragedies. They say there's no money, but it'd cost very little," she said.