Stigma is one of the most pervasive barriers to dealing with mental health problems – Neville
Speaking at a seminar on Suicide Prevention in the European Parliament Offices in Dublin, Fine Gael TD, Limerick and President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dan Neville, said that stigma is one of the most pervasive problems in dealing with mental health issues.
“Dealing with stigma is one of the biggest challenges we face in tackling mental health problems. Using negative labels such as ‘mad’, ‘nuts, ‘barmy’ or ‘off-the-wall’ to describe people with mental health issues stigmatises people and stops them from seeking help.
“This is especially so amongst men, who feel that seeking help for emotional or psychological problems is a sign of weakness. They are often in denial when in fact they need urgent assistance. Stigma can lead to people avoiding social situations or working with others. It causes low self-esteem, isolation and hopelessness.
“While the State has a primary role to play in reducing suicide rates, leaders in our society must also engage in challenging the stigma surrounding mental health issues. 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.
“Community organisations and other local services such as the Gardái, citizens information personnel, addiction counsellors, clergy, representatives of sporting organisations, teachers, parents, the bereaved of suicide victims and members of the public can all play a key role in reducing suicide.
“More attention should be given to skills-based community empowerment, which helps to prepare individuals of all backgrounds to provide emergency aid and to make life assisting interventions for persons at risk of suicide. This gives people the know-how to help a person who is having thoughts of suicide and provide links for further help.
“At present, there are two very useful programmes in place to train members of the public in the area of suicide prevention. 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. Safetalk is a half-day programme providing similar skills.
“These courses are helping to save lives. While I welcome the significant increase in the budget for the National Suicide Prevention Office since this Government came to power, it is also important to note that we started at a very low funding base. There is a constant need for more resources to reduce suicide rates.”