independent

Monday 22 September 2014

United front the way to help break stigma

Published 04/06/2014 | 05:22

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A collaboration between suicide prevention agencies all over Ireland is what is going to break down the stigma surrounding suicide, according to CEO of Suicide or Survive (SOS) Caroline McGuigan.

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Ms. McGuigan, who started the organisation in Arklow in 2006 following personal experience with Irish psychiatric services having attempted to take her own life, has been a champion for the cause of promoting the importance of taking care of our mental health for almost a decade.

SOS, which recently relocated to Shankill, was established to help break down the stigma and help those in need access adequate services to aid recovery.

'The stigma still exists today in Ireland. We are better at talking about suicide and mental health outside of ourselves but if it concerns us we are very slow to reach out. We all have mental health just as we have physical health and we must look after it. It can dip from time to time and that is perfectly normal. What people need to realise is when to reach out and to use the safety net of support until that feeling passes, which it eventually will with the right support.'

According to Ms. McGuigan, collaboration between suicide prevention agencies is vital to ensure that those in need of services know exactly where to seek help.

'We know that collaboration works. By the end of the year there will be one website and one phone number which we can signpost quickly for people. This is being set up through the National Office of Suicide Prevention which invited organisations around the country to get involved. We need the fullness of the community to ensure that information is getting out to those who need it so we all need to work together and become more aware.

'We work a lot with See Change and we give a lot of workshops in the corporate world to enable companies to be in a position to offer support to employees in the working environment. It won't be just work, for example that stresses you out but with the right signposting mechanism we can enable people to be in a position to access the right support for them.'

While a 'quick fix' doesn't exist, Ms. McGuigan is adamant that we can all make improvements to our mental health by taking time to figure out what works for us.

'I know what works for me, for example walking and meditation help relieve tension. We are all different so we need to see what works for us. While there are some things that can lift our mood, in times of crisis the most important thing is to reach out. You need that safety net and equally if someone confides in you assure them that together you can find the help they need.'

Ms. McGuigan recommends the Assist course which all SOS employees complete and is free to attend for those seeking information and advice on how to help those in crisis. SOS can be reached at 1980 577 577.

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