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Suicide inquests should be held in private - Console

Suicide inquests should be held in private - so as to reduce the trauma for grieving families.

It would make the process far less intrusive for those grieving for a loved one, according to the bereavement charity Console.

CEO and founder, Paul Kelly, said Ireland’s legal requirement for a public inquest following death by suicide should be reviewed.

He was speaking at the World Suicide Prevention Day Conference in Croke Park today.

He said Ireland should look at the system in Scotland and Northern Ireland where a public inquest is not held, if it is not considered to be in the public interest, and if the authorities agree the death resulted from suicide.

“Families bereaved by suicide have gone through one of the most devastating events possible, and in many ways they can feel as if they are on being put on trial at a public inquest,” said Mr Kelly.

“Traumatised families can be asked to give evidence, suicide notes can be made public and family members can be questioned about last conversations and the deceased’s state of mind.

“Deeply private information about drugs or alcohol in the deceased’s system, or if they had a row with someone before ending their life, can all be discussed in a public forum with the media in attendance.

“This is a deeply intrusive system, and one that should not exist as we face up to the reality that over 475 families this year will have to face this, sometimes unnecessary, trauma.

“Suicide and other sudden and unnatural deaths have to be investigated but the dignity and privacy of the family must be at the core of these proceedings.”

Mr Kelly said the current system adds to the stigma of death by suicide and can prolong the family’s grieving process unnecessarily.

Public inquests can have a "trial-like aspect" which harks back to the days before suicide was decriminalised in 1993, he added.

“Families do not have to undergo such public scrutiny when someone dies of cancer and we feel that the individual private and personal circumstances surrounding deaths by suicide are not necessarily a matter of public interest," he said.

“Another problem is that families may not get the opportunity to grieve properly because they are on tenterhooks waiting for an inquest which could take up to a year.

“They think the inquest is going to give them answers about their loved one’s death when its actual role is to establish the facts and reach a medical conclusion.

“We need a more sensitive and compassionate way of investigating suicide deaths in the Republic and we should start by making the inquests into those deaths private."

Other speakers at the conference included GP and author Dr Harry Barry, who examined the rising rate of suicide and self-harm among young and considered whether today’s adolescents are facing unique challenges not seen by other generations.

Dr Barry said we need to educate our young people in how to deal with emotional distress which he describes as “the golden thread” running through problems such as drink and drug addiction, cyber-bulling and self-harm.

Irish Independent