Finance Measures 09

Deputy Dan Neville

I propose to address a specific issue about which I am extremely concerned in the context of the recession and increasing unemployment. International research dating back to 1987 shows that in times of recession the incidence of suicide increases considerably. Research done in every decade since the 1980s has confirmed this is the case.

In times of recession, stress levels increase significantly among those who are rendered unemployed. Mental illness also increases among this group owing to external factors affecting its members. Depressive illness, which contributes to suicide, increases, as do financial difficulties. As we are aware, financial problems can give rise to a belief for some in that they cannot deal with one’s circumstances other than by taking the desperate act of ending one’s life.

Health problems also increase among those who are made unemployed. General health problems frequently result in emotional problems and, in some cases, psychiatric illness. Opportunities to engage in education are no longer as widely available in a recession. People who are made unemployed fear for their futures, their families and their homes. They experience anger about the position in which they find themselves, are disappointed and insecure and feel a sense of hopelessness and low self-esteem. This combination is a recipe for serious problems and people will become suicidal. Unfortunately, there will be an increase in the number of people who see no way out of their hopelessness other than to consider taking their lives

Debate Adjourned
Debate Resumed

Deputy Dan Neville

Prior to the previous adjournment of the debate, I outlined that international research since the 1890s shows that there is an increase in suicide and mental health issues during times of recession. I request that the Government allocates €8 million to the National Suicide Prevention Office to deal with that situation.

There is a precedent for this. Some weeks ago the Minister for Social and Family Affairs announced that €7.8 million was being provided to organisations involved in marriage and child bereavement counselling services throughout Ireland as a first part of a three-year rolling investment in the valuable services provided by those organisations to support families in times of distress and trauma. The psychological stresses should be addressed in a similar fashion. The Minister stated that now more than ever there is a need to ensure the quality of services available to help families who may be experiencing new pressures and stresses in their lives.

The difficult economic situation being experienced throughout the country is filtering into the lives and homes of families throughout Ireland. When a person loses his or her job or has working hours cut, the financial strain can lead to pressures in relationships and on his or her mental health and well-being. The Minister for Health and Children must deal with the situation in the same way as the Minister for Social and Family Affairs has dealt with the pressures on relationships. She also stated that having a network of support services available throughout the country to provide marriage and relationship counselling services is a core part of helping families to cope with problems they are confronted with. Having a network of support services available throughout the country to provide mental health and suicide prevention services is a core part of helping families to cope with problems they are confronted with as a result of the recession and the effect it will have, as proven by international research in every decade since 1890, and the fact that those rendered unemployed are six times more likely to commit suicide than the general public.

I call on the Minister to respond to the request to treat the levels of mental well-being and psychological stresses in the way the Minister for Social and Family Affairs dealt with marriage difficulties and family relationship problems. The same applies to mental health and well-being and suicide prevention, and recognising that the recently unemployed have a higher level of suicide. We must promote suicide prevention programmes aimed at those people and the avenue to do that is the National Suicide Prevention Office.

Before Christmas we met the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and Professor Drumm and they informed us they had recognised this and would increase the level of money to the National Suicide Prevention Office, but recent rumours have been circulating that the office may have to take a 10% cut in its budget. If that happens, the Government and the Minister are in denial about the real situation confronting people in terms of psychiatric and emotional difficulties and levels of suicide in families as a result of the recession