Tuesday 22 May 2018

This inspiring 82-year-old man is tirelessly working to fight suicide nationwide

Joe MacAvin, co-founder of the 3Ts charity, and winner of the “Age is no barrier” special recognition award.
Joe MacAvin, co-founder of the 3Ts charity, and winner of the “Age is no barrier” special recognition award.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

An 82-year-old man has received an award in recognition of his tireless work for suicide prevention.

Joe MacAvin, co-founder of the 3Ts charity, won the “Age is no barrier” special recognition award at the Hidden Hearing Hero Awards last night.

3Ts – Turn The Tide of Suicide - is a registered charity working to help prevent deaths by suicide through research, intervention and support.

“It came as a shock to me,” said Joe. “I’ve had a marvellous life except that I lost my wife five years ago. That was a terrible tragedy, she got cancer.”

But he said: “I feel maybe like the captain of a team holding a football. Thousands of people around the country have helped me, and I was lucky that often it was the right man at the right time that was helping me.”

“I found it so, so difficult to come to terms with people taking their own lives. One of the great tragedies was that the Government made suicide a crime, and that wasn’t rescinded until the 1960s. Both the Church and Government made a huge impact in making it a stigma.”

“Suicide is out there more in the open now. The families suffered very, very badly as a result of suicide being a stigma. It was terrible. They had lost someone and some people wouldn’t even talk to them.”

Joe said the issue of self-harming among young people is very serious, based on figures from hospital A&E admissions.

“The one thing that does worry me in the last five years is self-harming... The figures are appalling. The analysts say that something in the region of 40,000 12-18 year-olds are self-harming, based on data that has been supplied by A&E departments in the country.”

“Something in the region of 50pc of them will have suicidal thoughts,” he explained.

Joe, who was instrumental in starting up candle light vigils for 3Ts and suicide awareness, says Ireland has a chance of tackling the suicide problem if communities work together on prevention.

“Communities who rally together have a far better chance of beating this mental health problem.”

He added: "The 3TS has always advocated that there should be a separate authority to tackle suicide, like the Road Safety Authority."

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