Farm Ireland

Saturday 25 November 2017

Being Aware will help save lives

Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Statistics tell strange tales. Apparently, while we have a dreadful death toll annually on our roads it is actually less than half the published figure for deaths from suicide.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) gets many millions in funding from the State yet their campaigns appear to be of little or no use in reaching the under-25 male drivers who are the people who clearly need them most.

At the same time, Aware, that wonderful organisation which helps those who suffer from depression, struggles each year to find the necessary funding, 80pc of which comes from charity fundraising activities and only 20pc from statutory bodies.

When compared to the funding given to the RSA, I believe that maybe we have got our priorities mixed up. I am not for a moment trying to diminish the importance of road safety. It would be grossly irresponsible to do so. I am simply attempting to clarify the issues and see how matters might be improved and help given to those who need it most.

It puzzles me that while we spend multi-millions trying to cut the numbers of road deaths, we are lax in our official support for the groups who work to prevent the 500 or more suicides that occur annually and are increasing in number.

Road deaths could be reduced further. Young women are statistically proven to be extremely safe drivers while young men are the opposite.

Most young men are genetically programmed to take risk and seek out danger. This is something we, the males of our species, have inherited as a means of ensuring that we would be prepared to go out and fight and die if necessary to defend the tribe.

Young men make great soldiers because they know no fear and traditionally vie with each other to show how daring and brave they are.

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Unfortunately, in peace time, there is no outlet for this natural exuberance and aggression and, unless it is provided, trouble will and does occur. Contact sports such as football, hurling and rugby are all excellent means of providing such an outlet but not all boys are able or wish to partake.

The boy racers and other young men who scorch around our roads in the early hours of the morning are just proving their manhood and their place among the tribe.

They should be given an alternative venue such as a disused quarry in every parish where they could race each other to their hearts' content without endangering the rest of us. If they race on the public roads they should be banned from driving for at least 10 years.

No one without a full driving licence should be allowed out in charge of a motor vehicle. Many may think this is unfair, but how would you like to be driven home late at night by someone who could not pass the driving test?

Also, all drivers involved in accidents, fatal or otherwise, should be tested for drugs and alcohol, and the results published in the national press. That might wake up the general public to the facts that it is not the roads that are the problem but the conduct and condition of the people who use them.

Our roads are, in general, extremely good compared to 10 years ago, yet our standard of driving is steadily getting worse. If there were a real risk of getting caught speeding or having taken drink or drugs while in charge of a car, then deaths would rapidly decrease. It's that simple. Some people blame the roads but unlike cars, our roads, and the trees that line them, do not move. When accidents occur, they are almost always the fault of the driver.

Helping people who suffer from depression and may have suicidal tendencies is a more difficult problem to solve. But there has been a huge shift in public acceptance and awareness that depression is a medical condition that can be cured and that those who suffer need good support and back up.

Until relatively recently most GPs hadn't a clue how to deal with depression but now groups such as Aware have made a real difference in providing proper help and a place to turn to.

The suicide rate among both young and old is tragically and unacceptably high and in times of recession it can be hard to retain one's self-esteem if one cannot find work and support oneself and/or one's family. Suicide has brought heartbreak to many homes and the suffering of those who eventually take their own lives is incalculable.

Check out or phone 1890 303 302. If you feel you need help or are concerned about a friend or family member, or just want someone who is non-judgmental to talk to, Aware provides just what is needed.

Aware is constantly in need of funding and volunteers. Depression tends to increase with the onset of winter so please help them or send a donation. It will save lives.

Irish Independent