Look after your loved ones’ mental health over Christmas – Neville

Fine Gael Limerick TD and President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dan Neville, has urged people to look after their loved ones’ mental health over the Christmas period, which he described as a very challenging time of year for vulnerable members of society.

“While Christmas should be a joyous occasion, it can also be a very challenging time for many people. Financial problems can seem amplified at this time of year, adding to stresses and concerns. The horrible reality is that many families will be left devastated by suicide this Christmas. I would urge everyone to think of your close friends and relatives, and reach out to anyone who may be feeling vulnerable.

“Stress is likely to be even greater this year, due to the high number of people suffering as a result of our economic situation. Suicide rates and mental health problems increase during times of recession; this phenomenon is no less prevalent at Christmas, when added stress can lead people to feel embattled and overwhelmed. If you think someone in your life is overly burdened, talk to them.

“The Government has sent out a very strong message in the recent Budget by ring fencing €35 million for the delivery of mental health care in the community. This was a key provision of the Programme for Government, and is outlined in ‘A Vision for Change’. We are committed to ending the stigma on mental illness and, by ensuring early and appropriate intervention, we can make it easier for people to seek help when they need it, be it at Christmas, or any other time of year.

“I have also urged the Minister for Health to allocate €4 million of the ring fenced funding specifically to the National Suicide Prevention Office. This could go towards the introduction of suicide prevention programmes, raising awareness about how to deal with those who are suicidal, and ensuring that services are there for people in crisis.

“The Government is taking the lead on the issue of mental health, after decades of neglect. Individually, we must all do what we can to ensure that our loved ones are supported over the Christmas period.”