Council aims to help organisations to reverse trend
One person on average per week has taken their own life in Mayo in 2012 after it was revealed this week that 23 people in the county have died by suicide since the turn of the year.
The frightening statistics were discussed in depth at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council after Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne had raised the matter, adding that figures had trebled in the last three years.
An emotional discussion on mental health and suicide prevention took place in the council chamber following a presentation by Mary O’Sullivan, the HSE West Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention and Máire Ní Dhomhnaill, a counsellor in the Family Resource Centre in Castlebar.
Cllr Kilcoyne, who also runs an undertaker business in Castlebar, said the sense of agony among families affected by suicide was ‘indescribable’ and the Council had to help reduce the numbers of suicides in the county.
“The year is only half over and so far 23 people we know of have taken their lives through suicide. That is nearly one a week and they come from all age groups, young and old. That figure has trebled on what it was three years ago and there are no signs of it abating at all.
“Something serious is happening when there is a 300 per cent increase in the number of people deciding that life is not worth living in this county. It is one of the greatest crises facing our people. If 23 people were killed on our roads we would be screaming looking for help but there is no outcry. It is not given the priority it should be given and sadly there is no sign of that changing. It is up to all of us to do our best to change that,” he told the meeting.
A proposal by the two guest speakers for Mayo County Council to provide financial support to them to recruit a part-time project work was supported by the councillors. County Manager Peter Hynes said he could not commit to calls for the Council to appoint a Suicide Prevention Officer with roles similar to that of the Road Safety Officer but would look at the proposal.
The Mayo Suicide Prevention Group was formed over two years ago and meets regularly and is made up of approximately 50 organisations who help promote positive mental health and take away the stigma of people reaching out for help.
Ms O’Sullivan explained that their proposal was to work with local media groups to promote good practice in the reporting of suicide and enlist their support to promote key messages from the campaign.
There was widespread support for the group’s work amongst the councillors who pledged their support in the promotion of positive mental health.
Erris based councillor Rose Conway-Walsh told the meeting that she got involved in suicide prevention after a 26-year-old close friend took her own life and she did not see any signs of it beforehand. She said she did not want to let it happen again and proposed that all councillors take part in ASIST training to help identify the risks of suicide.
Cllr Gerry Ginty said the ‘elephant lurking in the room’ with regards to suicide was the drinks industry and he claimed that alcohol was a huge contributory factor in young people’s suicide.
“Alcohol puts you in a certain frame of mind where normally you would go home and think things through but because of bloody drink you don’t. This government should have the courage of its convictions to stop the sale of cheap drink and the glamorisation of drink,” he said.
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