Speaking at the event ‘Mental Health – From Vision to Action’ in the Gresham Hotel in Dublin this evening (Thursday), Fine Gael TD for Limerick and President of the Irish Association for Suicidology, Dan Neville, warned of the huge impact the economic recession is having on mental health.
“I welcome the recent comments made by the Master of the High Court, Edmond Honohan, who raised his concerns about the high number of people who are in debt and under pressure from the banks, and who as a result are feeling suicidal.
“Research clearly shows that there is an increase in suicide rates and mental health problems during times of economic recession. Many people feel embattled and overwhelmed. Stressful life events, financial and otherwise, have a significant impact on those vulnerable to mental health issues. Normal coping mechanisms can be compromised by the effects of stress, substance abuse, psychiatric symptoms and other risk factors associated with suicide.
“It can be difficult to get exact information on the numbers of people dying by suicide in Ireland every year. In 2009 the rate of suicide jumped by a quarter to 527 official deaths. However in that same year there were a further 195 deaths of undetermined cause. The Scottish suicide prevent programme, Chooselife, recommends that when recording suicide data, deaths of intentional self harm should be combined with those of undetermined intent, as the majority of the latter are probable cases of suicide. Using this approach, the true statistic for death by suicide in Ireland in 2009 was 772. However the reality is, due to the high level of under reporting, the true figure may be even higher.
“The potential psychological impact of the economic recession on public health is severe. Unemployment, job insecurity and the money worries that come with a loss of income lead to an increase in mental health problems. This in turn can lead to a rise in substance abuse and the breakdown of relationships. Job insecurity is associated with a 33% greater risk of common mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression. In turn, the unemployed are six times more likely to suffer from a psychiatric disorder than those who are in work. The threat of home foreclosures is also of particular concern, and the threat of loosing one’s home has been found to be one of the most common economic strains associated with suicide.
“This Government has committed to ensuring early intervention and improving access to mental health services in the community. Every year €35 million will be ring fenced to develop community mental health teams and services, as recommended in the Vision for Change document. Part of this funding will be used to implement Reach Out, the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, which aims to reduce the high levels of suicide in Ireland.
“Suicide is a devastating issue that we cannot afford to ignore.”