4 September 2015 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Although acknowledgement of suicide as a matter of serious national social concern is now widespread, and a good deal of the stigma formerly attaching to it has been shed, there has been little abatement of it as a cause of premature mortality and a source of deep and grievous suffering for families in our own and other counties.

Its resistance to a fullness of understanding, despite increasing study from a wide range of psychological and sociological perspectives, marks suicide as a problem that will be ever in our midst. Consequently there is an ever-pressing need for services to identify, counsel and care for those at risk, and to provide comfort and advocacy for those whose lives have been impacted by a loss of a loved one to its touch.

The work done by the SOSAD organisation in this regard is particularly esteemed in Co Monaghan, and we refer our readers to the outline of local activities taking place in connection with National Suicide Prevention Week elsewhere on this page with the confidence that they will be diligently supported.

The exposition the article contains of the philosophy animating the theme of World Suicide Prevention Day – Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives – is also commended to our readership.

It highlights the fact that both suicide risk, and the suffering of those bereaved by it, is accentuated by isolation and silence.

One of the most searing pains associated with the aftermath of a suicide death is the feeling that a more sharpened awareness of the suffering that must have preceded the act, or some form of even cursory intervention, might have prevented the tragic outcome.

But out of that pain can be mined a potentially empowering and valuable realisation which, if it became developed in our individual consciousness, could serve as a potent source of assistance to those at risk.

By merely providing a listening and sympathetic ear to a friend or family member showing signs of mental trial, we could be the catalyst that makes the difference to their own appreciation and acknowledgement of their difficulties and acceptance of the need for assistance.

As SOSAD point out, compassionate and non-judgmental support is of crucial importance to those who may be at risk of suicide, or those who have lost a loved one and who are going through the many powerful and wounding emotions associated with that experience. And while such support may often need to be augmented by reference to sources of formal care and treatment, it can act as the prompt for the person in need of help to take the often difficult step of deciding to interact with the relevant services.

The evolution of a strong, informed suicide support community in Ireland in recent years has facilitated greater understanding of the problem. It has also prompted an ongoing discourse that has served to dismantle some of the dark edifice of silence and stigma that at one time rendered this subject almost taboo.

Out of this awareness and debate, a strong mechanism has been formed for advocating for improvements in the support services available. While mental health services have developed their specialisms in this area considerably, and primary care response in terms of detection and referral have improved, the trend of rationalisation and cost-cutting that beset our health services even before the onset of economic downturn has created considerable gaps in resources.

Not all areas of our country have the range of services necessary to assist those at risk and those bereaved with the ease of access required – this is one area of health care where there should be no waiting list for the needed responses.

With a general election in the offing, and some targeted spending increase in health areas likely to form a prelude to it, now is an important time for lobbying for greater investment in the area of suicide prevention to be directed at the political parties.

All those who are active in this regard should communicate the importance of additional resources being made available to their local and national public representatives in the weeks and months ahead. A consciousness of the importance of the issue was evident when Sinn Féin unveiled their first election policy document in Monaghan Town last week – among the health initiatives detailed was a proposal to assign special assessment nurses to the area who could gauge risk and direct the appropriate response in emergency and crisis situations or when an at-risk person presented at an accident and emergency department.

The other political parties will be equally diligent no doubt in evolving their own policies in this area and communicating them to the public in the months ahead – all should be engaged with by the advocacy groups to ensure that proposals for implementation are in tune with the needs that exist on the ground, and that the parties are firm in their commitment to enacting them if they gain the reins of government.

The coffee morning taking place in Carrickmacross on Wednesday next is an admirable means of enabling people wishing to take the daunting first step of engagement with support and advice to do so in an environment of welcoming reassurance. And the religious services being held in Monaghan and Carrickmacross to coincide with Suicide Prevention Week provide for the respectful remembrance and spiritual solace that are essential healing sources.

All the activities organised by SOSAD and kindred organisations in the week ahead are deserving of wide public support and engagement. By so doing, we can all ready ourselves for effective response to the entreaty that underpins those efforts: “Please, reach out and save lives!”


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