Friday 24 January 2020

Varadkar tells how he lost two people to suicide during 'lost decade'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Collins
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Collins

Mark O'Regan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told how he lost two people he knew to suicide during Ireland's Great Recession as latest figures show the number of suicides reached almost 5,000 in most of the period referred to as the lost decade.

Mr Varadkar said both of the people he personally knew were "riding high" during the boom years but did not know how to cope when the global recession hit.

His comments come as records show 4,929 people lost their lives during most of the 10 years of unemployment, house repossessions, and renewed forced emigration.

"I remember two people I knew in my community who took their own lives during that time," Mr Varadkar told the Sunday Independent.

"They believed they had the world at their feet and didn't know how to cope - or who to reach out to - when their finances collapsed.

"I felt so bad for the families and the kids they left behind. It's one of the reasons I ensured the budget was doubled for the National Office Of Suicide Prevention when I was in the Department of Health. Not sure if made a difference, but at least it was something,'' he said.

The suicide rate increased from 458 a year at the start of the recession in 2007 to 541 before Ireland technically exited recession in 2012, as more and more people battled various forms of economic hardship.

Similarly, the number self-harming also increased during those years. In 2007, the rate of self-harm incidents was 188 per 100,000. Within five years, this increased to 211, according to data from the National Suicide Research Foundation.

According to a UCC study, suicide rates for Irish males jumped by 57pc from 2008 to 2012. The research, headed by Dr Paul Corcoran, found that in the five years of the recession there were 561 more deaths by suicide than there would have been if pre-recession trends had continued. Men accounted for 476 of those deaths and 85 were women.

Mr Varadkar said: "The rate of suicide at that time was the human cost of economic mismanagement at its most stark and painful. It reminds us why we must never go back."

If any of the above issues have affected you, you can call The Samaritans on 116123

Sunday Independent

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