Monday 15 October 2018

Helen McEntee: Ensure families are aware of early suicide warning signs

Helen McEntee
Helen McEntee

Aishling Phelan

FINE Gael TD Helen McEntee believes families must be made aware of the early warning signs of suicide.

Her father, the late Fine Gael minister Shane McEntee, took his own life a couple of days before last Christmas.

"Suicide is very uncertain and it scares people because people don't understand it and it can come out of the blue," she said on World Suicide Prevention Day. 

"It's important to make people more aware of those signs because sometimes they can come on so quickly that you don't realise they're signs."

She was speaking at the launch of Pieta House's new suicide prevention initiative aimed at educating families in rural and farming communities on how to spot the early signs of severe depression.

"Life doesn't go plain sailing and sometimes people aren't able to deal with the stresses of life as well as others," she added.

Her father died just two days after his 56th birthday.

Ms McEntee won his seat in the Meath East by-election in March this year.

Reflecting on the pressures of the recession on those working in politics she said, "It is very difficult to lay blame one particular area because people will always have their problems.

"It brought pressure on everybody and people deal with the crisis in different manners. That's the main thing to get across is that everyone is different, every case, story and death is different," she said.

The Rural Suicide Intervention Initiative will provide information on the early warning signs of suicide to families, particularly those of men and farmers.

Deputy President of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Eddie Downey said there is a fear of failure among farmers as their incomes decline and a sense of loneliness as they work mainly in isolation.

"When the Celtic Tiger fell apart it had a knock on effect on agriculture because we are perceived to be that last economic pillar in society.

"The farmer on the ground is out there milking his cows, feeding his cattle and working in complete isolation," he added.

The initiative is part of Pieta House's Mind Our Men campaign, aimed at reducing male suicide in Ireland.

Eight out of ten suicides in Ireland are male.

"Figures show that two thirds of men that take their own lives have either tried before, have suffered from depression or mental illness," said Ms McEntee.

"However there is also a third that hasn't so it's important we understand the early signs," she added.

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