Sunday 15 September 2019

Charity says 525 suicides may be 'tip of iceberg'

JEROME REILLY

Console urges State and families to engage with younger people

LATEST official statistics which show there were 525 deaths by suicide last year in Ireland may be just the tip of the iceberg -- and the real figure could be significantly higher, according to a leading charity.

Paul Kelly of Console, which provides a range of suicide-prevention and bereavement counselling services, said that the official figures for 2011 were preliminary figures and did not take into account a significant number of deaths that have yet to go through the Coroners' Courts.

"There are also a large number of deaths which at this stage are still identified as 'undetermined deaths', even though in a large number of these cases a suicide note may have been left or there is evidence which suggests suicide," he said.

Mr Kelly also pointed out that there were more than 12,000 presentations every year at A&E departments from people who had engaged in acts of deliberate self-harm.

"These figures are staggering, and remind us of the need for a reinvigorated national strategy for suicide prevention in Ireland. Times change so fast, and young people are under so many varied pressures, strains and influences," he said.

The charity was founded by Mr Kelly in 2002 after he experienced his own loss by suicide when his young sister Sharon took her own life at the age of 21.

"The loss of Sharon was heart-breaking for all the family. The feelings of rejection, guilt and sadness were very intense, and the persistence of the question 'why?' was extremely hard to cope with," said Mr Kelly.

"Sharon died when she was just 21. So many young people in their 20s are dying by suicide and we all need to address this urgently.

"We need to find new ways to connect and engage with young people, and learn from them the coping skills they need. The State agencies, the charities, communities and families all have a very important role to play."

Around the time of his sister's suicide, Mr Kelly and his family struggled in their search for a helpful service which specifically supported those with this type of grief.

"Services were few and far between, and as a result, I decided to set up a helpline and signposting service for others in this place. Fairly soon, I realised the acute need for a dedicated suicide postvention organisation here in Ireland," said Mr Kelly.

Ten years later, Console has a nationwide presence, with counselling centres in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Wexford. Additional services are provided in Mayo, Athlone and other areas of Dublin such as Clondalkin and Tallaght.

Anyone affected by or bereaved by suicide can access professional counselling and psychotherapy services or support groups at a Console Centre. Console is hosting its World Suicide Prevention Day Conference at Croke Park Convention Centre on September 7. A range of national and international speakers will focus on the role of the community in providing crisis support.

Console is also holding a 5km Walk and Talk event at the Phoenix Park on September 9, at 11am.

"Two of our central themes are community and communication," said Mr Kelly.

"The idea behind the Walk and Talk is that we are asking people to bring their extended family and get them together at the Phoenix Park. People may only see each other once in a while, and it's the perfect opportunity to get together and have a chat in some wonderful surroundings."

All details of the Console Conference and the Walk and Talk event are available on www.console.ie or by calling Console on 01 6102638.

For support or access to counselling services, Console operates a free 24-hour helpline on 1800 201 890.

In addition, the 1Life Suicide Prevention Helpline (for anyone in crisis, or worried about a loved one) is available on 1800 247 100 or by texting the word HELP to 51444.

Sunday Independent

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