Rates of suicide increased 110 per cent in Mayo in three years. The staggering figure was revealed by Michael Ryan, director of 5050 PhoneAFriend suicide-prevention group, during a recent Castlebar Town Council meeting.
In 2008, ten people in the county died by suicide. In 2010, that figure jumped to 21. Mr Ryan said that suicide was the ‘greatest social issue which society faces today’.
5050 PhoneAFriend informs people at risk of the support structures available to them, makes suicide-prevention promotion a priority issue in the public and political forum, and raises awareness around the issues that can lead to suicide.
During his presentation Mr Ryan, underscored the prevalence of depression in Ireland, pointing out that 450,000 people are currently suffering from the illness. In 2009, 12,000 people attempted suicide – one every 40 minutes. Throughout, Mr Ryan emphasised the importance of seeking help. “This is an illness like any other,” he said. “There is a solution. Talk to someone.”
The Mayor of Castlebar Cllr Eugene McCormack, who is employed by the HSE said, “I have seen in a professional capacity the serious issue of suicide, and 5050 PhoneAFriend is a great initiative. The first of its kind in the country. There are serious problems out there.”
Cllr McCormack went on to talk about the potentially life-threatening impact of day-to-day stresses, highlighting in particular the plight of one young person who has been the victim of bullying. “One young boy and his family have been in to contact with me recently. The young boy is at home from school because of bullying and he has been greatly affected by it. I am trying to assist them. Hopefully he will be OK.”
More resources needed
More lives are lost each year to suicide in Ireland than in road fatalities, yet the budget to reduce deaths on Ireland’s roads is almost five times higher at €41 million. Just €8.7 million is allocated for suicide prevention.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne, who works as an undertaker, said it was ‘startling’ that the funding allocated to preventing road deaths was so much higher. He said, “I come across these cases [of suicide] regularly in a professional capacity too, but unfortunately when I do it’s too late. If people could see the grief that families and loved ones go through, maybe they would seek other alternatives.”