Friday, April 30, 2010

Alarming rise in suicide level ‘a national disaster’

THE alarming level of suicide has been described as "a national disaster", with figures showing the number who took their lives last year to be the highest in a decade.

Director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention Geoff Day said the effects of the recession would see the number of suicides exceed 500,– a situation that he described as "a disaster".

"The provisional figures for last year, the first three-quarters of last year, showed a 26% increase on the previous similar three-quarters of the previous year. If you extrapolate that and do the sums that brings you back past 500. That is a serious problem."

He said there has been a "new cohort" of people affected by mental health problems as a result of the recession.

"It is an older age group, 30- to 50-year-olds, guys who have always been in the labour market, always been well-off, have relationships and families and now all of a sudden the impact of the recession has damaged relationships, damaged the finances. Some of them unfortunately take their own lives."

He said the NOSP was working with various groups, including IBEC, MABS and Fás, to get the message of mental health awareness out to people, as well as through employers.

Last year, the NOSP received an extra one-off allocation which went towards a campaign targeted at young people. An accompanying website has received 20,000 hits, with the average visit lasting three minutes.

Minister with Responsibility for Mental Health John Moloney said he planned a series of town hall meetings around the country to increase awareness of mental health issues.

The minister said the recently launched See Change campaign would help spearhead a fresh approach to mental health issues, including the destigmatising of mental illness.


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