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‘Suicide groups need streamlining’

‘Too many suicide groups’

Expert claims duplication of effort among awareness groups

Edwin McGreal

There are too many groups working in the area of suicide prevention and suicide awareness. That was the strident view of Pontoon-based Dr John Connolly, the Secretary of the Irish Association of Sucidiology who was speaking when he launched the ‘Mayo Be Well’ campaign yesterday (Monday) at Mayo County Council.
The well-being campaign is an initiative of the Mayo Suicide Prevention Alliance, a partnership group set up in 2009 which has brought together many organisations and groups working in the areas of mental health and suicide awareness and prevention in Mayo.
Dr Connolly outlined at the launch how too many organisations working independently of each other can be a problem and explained how the Irish Association of Sucidiology (IAS) are in the midst of developing an accreditation procedure for such groups.
“In the voluntary field there is a tremendous amount of duplication of effort and people like to do good work. When there is a tragedy, instead of finding out what is there, like this well-being campaign for instance, people go out and set up a new voluntary organisation,” he said.
“In the IAS we got together with over 100 voluntary organisations to see people develop together in a partnership process and looked at an accreditation process and governance and hopefully we’ll be launching this project in the very near future,” he added.
Dr Connolly told the launch that suicide was far from a new phenomenon.
“Suicide is a growing problem but it has always been with us. Everyone here would be astonished with research we did when I was working in St Mary’s Psychiatric Hospital in 1981. In that year there were 25 or more suicides in the county of Mayo.
“You wouldn’t have believed that because no one would have heard of it (suicide). I think we have got to be careful about not scaremongering as well because statistics can be very frightening and lead to people overreacting to what is going on.
“Fortunately for us while suicide is quite common, it is quite a rare illness, a rare form of death. Suicide accounts for just about 1.5 per cent of deaths in the country in the year. Perspective is very, very important so that we don’t overreact,” he said.
He said that not enough people know where to turn when they are in difficulty. Citing a survey the IAS conducted a number of years ago, Dr Connolly explained how 25 per cent of respondents could not name any services to turn to if they were feeling suicidal. That figure was as high as 38 per cent for men in the aged 15-24 category, the group most at risk of suicide, he said.
“It really underlined how important it is that we spread that knowledge and that we keep spreading it. It is our duty as citizens to be informed about all aspects of suicide prevention. Particularly, you should know the warning signs of suicide and know about depression and how to direct people to get help, and how, where and when to get help,” he said.
“Our survey showed there is a big knowledge gap in the community about that. We have to make sure that gap is filled,” he added.
The Mayo Suicide Prevention Alliance will promote their ‘Mayo Be Well’ campaign in the local newspapers and on local radio and through newsletters in the coming weeks.

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