Rural suicide campaign aims to quell ‘invisible despair’ suffered by farmers

Pieta House hoping to reach 500,000 people

Joan Freeman of Pieta House. “We are going to make the invisible visible. We are going to make sure that everyone knows the signs and symptoms of suicide”.    Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Joan Freeman of Pieta House. “We are going to make the invisible visible. We are going to make sure that everyone knows the signs and symptoms of suicide”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 


A campaign to reduce the incidence of suicide in rural areas will quell the “invisible despair” that is creeping around the country, according to Pieta House founder Joan Freeman.

She said farming communities were bearing the brunt of this invisible despair because farming was “the most noble livelihood but it’s also the most lonely livelihood”.

The Pieta House rural suicide intervention initiative aims to equip 500,000 people with the knowledge to spot the signs of suicidal behaviour.

“We are going to make the invisible visible,” Ms Freeman said yesterday. “We are going to make sure that everyone knows the signs and symptoms of suicide. We’re going to very, very gently bring the subject of suicide into the family home, not to normalise it but to make sure that people are not afraid.”

She added that this campaign was aimed at farm families because research showed that more lives were saved by family, friends, colleagues and neighbours than by institutions like her suicide charity.

It has the backing of the Irish Farmers Association, the Irish Country Women’s Association, Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture.

Information booklets will be sent to farm families, giving advice on how to recognise the signs and symptoms of suicidal behaviour and explaining what to do if someone is in crisis.

The campaign was launched by Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee whose father Shane, a former minister of State, died by suicide last year. She hoped it would help to prevent other families from experiencing the pain of suicide. “If it does save a life or save 10 lives or if it does mean that another family isn’t in the same position that we are in now then yes, I definitely think it is worth it.”

Ms McEntee added that it was fitting the campaign was being launched in Meath. “It’s a rural county . . . it’s a very large agricultural community and unfortunately in the last year we’ve lost many great men by suicide, one of them being my dad, who was a farmer and a rural man all his life and obviously was connected with the Department of Agriculture.”