Saturday 22 October 2016

Console deals with 'life and death' matters daily

Paul Kelly

Published 10/09/2015 | 02:30

Paul Kelly of Console
Paul Kelly of Console

It is a matter of life and death. As an organisation that deals with the prevention of suicide, and sometimes its aftermath, the above phrase has a hollow resonance.

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For us at Console, it signifies the enormity of the unnatural emphasis placed on normal events such as exams, job interviews, promotions, work presentations and even football matches.

We deal with people, especially young people, on a daily basis who feel that their lives have been turned into a black whirlpool because they cannot cope with what they feel that society terms as failure.

And, more significantly, they do not have the knowledge or coping skills to recognise the various stages that they may be going through as they journey towards what is a preventable state of crisis. Quite simply, in the rush to achieve, be it through points, places or salaries, we are producing a generation of young people for whom it is all or nothing.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that as a society we need to teach our young people the skills to be able to problem solve in mental health so that they can learn to cope before things, for them, become a matter of life and death.

The life skill that we must impart to our children is not to expect that all will go right in their lives, to understand that they will suffer many disappointments and that some will upset them greatly.

For Console, and for society in general, we have two tasks - to reach and to teach.

This year Console have seen a 49pc increase in texts to our helpline as young men, in particular, access crisis help through their mobile devices.

And 62pc of texts to Console's 51444 line are now coming from males, a figure which is being hailed as a breakthrough in suicide prevention as young men are being reached for the first time.

Men are four times as likely to take their own lives as women, but until this stage no-one has been able to convince young men who may be in suicidal crisis to open up.

They may not talk - but we have found that they will text - and in that way we are meeting them where they are, not where we think they should be.

However, it is our job as a society to be able to teach young people in advance about mental health, how the brain reacts under stress, and the various actions that may trigger a state of crisis.

In doing so, and by convincing our young people that there is help available at every step of the way, we can then ward danger off at an early stage.

As Dr Harry Barry will state at the Console National Suicide Prevention Day Conference at the Aviva Stadium today, research has shown that many people who take their own lives have been under stress for a considerable period of time. This is evidenced by the level of stress hormones in their system.

Over time, stress clouds the logical mind as the emotional brain struggles with the cause of stress, leading the person into a deadly circle that can sometimes tragically lead to someone taking their own life.

At the root of this circle lies the ability to adapt and problem solve - the ability to cope with life's issues one by one and to find a solution.

In our experience, dwelling on a problem without seemingly being able to find a solution often kick-starts a chain reaction that can end in catastrophe if not dealt with.

At Console, our helpline and textline counsellors are trained to recognise the problem that may be at the root of a crisis and to work in steps through logical solutions that may soothe the emotional mind.

Life is a long and varied road, and we must ensure that our children do not get stuck in whirlpools that they cannot seem to find their way out of.

Paul Kelly is founder and CEO of Console, a nationwide professional suicide-prevention and bereavement charity, offering counselling services and 24-hour helpline support. Freephone: 1800 247 247.

Irish Independent

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