Standards to be drawn up for suicide support groups

 

A SET OF agreed national standards is being drawn up for the estimated 250 to 300 groups working in the area of suicide prevention across the State.

The first of a series of regional meetings to allow voluntary and community organisations to have an input into the standards took place in Letterkenny and Sligo yesterday.

Others will follow today in Galway and Limerick, with further consultation meetings at other venues in the days that follow. The meetings are being organised by the Irish Association of Suicidology (IAS).

Its chief executive officer, Declan Behan, said many organisations had been established out of a tragedy in a local community, and while they were set up for all the right reasons, there were no standards about what they were doing or protocols around what services they offered.

While they might initially have been established to carry out bereavement support work, they could find themselves working in crisis intervention and involved in giving talks in schools.

“These groups do a lot of good work, but there has to be some form of minimum standard that they operate to, so we have been looking at a model in use since 1976 in the States,” he said.

There are likely to be criteria groups will have to meet, around governance, training of volunteers and qualifications of professionals providing services such as counselling if they are to be accredited by the IAS.

“The aim is to have a list of accredited support groups for the general public and for professionals which they can refer people to,” said Mr Behan, and to bring about more co-operation within the sector.

There had been a “huge increase” in organisations working in the area of suicide support and prevention during the Celtic Tiger period because there was lots of money around, he said.

Asked if there were concerns about how some of them were operating, he replied: “Where we would have a huge concern is that somebody establishes an organisation based on their own personal experience and they offer to go out and support people in a similar situation. Firstly, they more than likely haven’t dealt with their own grief and are using this as a method of dealing with their own grief.”

Secondly, he said, there was a concern that if this person was providing support to someone who went on to take their own life, it could have a devastating effect on that individual who hadn’t yet dealt with their own grief.

The accreditation project is funded by the National Office for Suicide Prevention.