Coroner notes 'really serious situation' of rural suicide


THE HIGH number of cases coming before inquest hearings involving people taking their own lives was commented on yesterday after a coroner suggested the problem was even more prevalent in rural areas.

Of six cases before the Offaly Coroner’s Court yesterday five involved men taking their own lives, prompting Acting Coroner Brian Mahon to remark on what he regarded as a “really serious situation” developing in Ireland.

Following one of the inquests at the monthly sitting, Mr Mahon said: “It is just an example of the rampant and really serious situation in Ireland – and in particular in the rural areas where there seems to be an increase in these suicide deaths.”

The five men were aged between 32 and 55. Two were from Tullamore, one was from Edenderry and one from Clara (all Co Offaly), and one was from Clonaslee, Co Laois. The sixth inquest related to a Polish national who died in a fatal traffic incident.

While the cases dated back to 2010, Mr Mahon told the Coroner’s Court the trend was continuing and there had been no reduction in the number of suicides appearing before him for 2011. “There is a very serious situation abroad in the country – it has not improved”, remarked Mr Mahon.

Of the high figures in 2010, he said: “The situation has continued on to the latter part of the year and into the new year.”

Speaking afterwards, communication and policy officer with Irish Rural Link Helen Dunne said she believed a combination of financial pressure and rural isolation contributed to the problem.

“The economic situation has had a huge effect,” Ms Dunne remarked. Those affected “have huge pressure in their own lives meeting bills, and that’s coupled with isolation. If people are not in the workplace there is less social contact, so it’s not just the breakdown in finances – there’s less social capital,” she added.

Acting HSE Midlands suicide prevention officer Josephine Rigney said the HSE had rolled out two programmes in the region in conjunction with the National Office of Suicide Prevention.

More than 2,000 people took part in the ongoing accredited Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training and Safetalk suicide awareness programmes in 2009, she said. “The objective of both of those programmes is to increase people’s awareness and alertness around suicide,” Ms Rigney explained.

“It is around educating ourselves and providing the skills. Unfortunately these tragedies will happen and some people may choose to take their lives but, if we are concerned about people and we get those skills, that increases our confidence and our capacity to be able to provide that support.”

1Life offers a 24hr national suicide helpline seven days a week and can be contacted at 1800 247 100. The Samaritans can be contacted on 1850 60 90 60, or texted at 087 260 9090.