Speaking today (Thursday) at a conference to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Muintir Na Tire, Fine Gael Limerick Deputy and President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dan Neville said that while responsibility in addressing suicide ultimately fell to the State, local services and community organisations also had a role to play.
“While the responsibility for leadership in addressing the serious issue of suicide lies with the State, civil society organisations and the general population can contribute a key role in reducing suicide and assisting in dealing with what has become a most serious social health issue.
“There is serious concern in many rural areas regarding an increase in suicide levels. While there is not yet statistical information to demonstrate this, I believe that this is of real concern.
“I believe that organisations like Muintir Na Tire, community organisations and other local services like the Gardaí, citizens information personnel, addiction counsellors, clergy, representatives of sporting organisations such as the Gaelic Athletic Association, Irish Rugby Football Union and the Football Association of Ireland, teachers, parents, the bereaved of suicide victims and members of the public interested in playing a role in reducing suicide all have a key role to play in reducing suicide.
“More attention should be given to skills-based community empowerment that helps prepare individuals of all backgrounds to provide emergency aid and to make life assisting interventions for persons at risk of suicide. The objective is to enhance the ability of people to promote the immediate safety of a person at risk of suicide and provide links for further help. Professional volunteers and informed helpers need to know how to help a person who is having thoughts of suicide in a way that increases suicide safety.
“At present, the skills-based Assist Programme which is delivered by the National Suicide Office is a two day skills-based workshop that helps prepare individuals of all backgrounds to assist people in difficulties.
“These programmes can be administered extremely effectively; for example, over the past year and a half a National Suicide Research Foundation in Cork introduced a comprehensive Training Programme to Limerick for An Garda Síochána. This saw 20 experienced Gardaí being trained as facilitators/trainers in the programme which identified early signs of suicide and how to respond to it, having the potential to significantly impact on local communities and on individuals who are experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings.”