THE appalling problem of suicide in our communities was once again brought sharply into focus at a Tralee Town Council meeting this week.
At that meeting, Mayor of Tralee Gillian Wharton-Slattery said she had attended the funerals of six people who had taken their own lives in the Tralee and North Kerry area.
Cllr Wharton-Slattery's revelation comes at a time when a vital support organisation in Tralee, Jigsaw, which supported young people's mental health and well-being, was forced to close due to lack of funding.
Last year, Coroner for Kerry South Terence Casey raised the issue of suicide amongst older people in rural areas. The coroner described the incidence of suicide in Kerry as "crazy" and that it was getting to crisis stage.
Suicide is a massive issue in Kerry and throughout the country. It affects people of all ages and of all social strata, and the aftermath of someone taking their own life is appalling not only for the deceased but also for those left behind struggling to cope with the loss of their loved ones.
It has been estimated by Suicide Ireland that approximately 400 people per year die as a result of suicide, with multiples of that estimation attempting suicide or self-harm.
It is a damning indictment of government that the tragedy of suicide in our communities has not been adequately addressed by successive administrations.
Lip-service is paid but in reality very little is done funding-wise – the closure of Jigsaw in Tralee is proof of this.
There is, however, an acknowledgment of suicide and its consequences in our local communities and the ordinary people of Kerry rarely hesitate to support organisations or events that endeavour to tackle the issue of suicide and suicide prevention.
In June, 1,436 people descended on Listowel to smash the world record for the number of people dressed as nuns in the one location. In doing so, vital funding was raised for suicide prevention charity Pieta House.
In May, thousands of people turned up in Killarney National Park at dawn for the annual 'Darkness Into Light, Walking for Nathan' event. Held in memory of a local schoolboy, the event was the third biggest of its kind in the country, and raised a staggering €30,000 for Pieta House.
Hundreds of similar events take place across Kerry and the country.
The support for mental health and wellbeing organisations is immense at ground level.
It is high time for our government and their agencies to follow suit.