Suicide crisis needs cultural response

The only real way to tackle the country's suicide crisis will be through societal change, a conference celebrating the foundation of the first mental health service in Ireland will hear today.

Prof Jim Lucey, medical director of St Patrick's University Hospital in Dublin, says: "We are all in this together and without a cultural response, we will not get individual support. Any real change in reducing suicide in Ireland will be societal and holistic."

This year's Founder's Day event in recognition of Jonathan Swift, who established the St Patrick's mental health services, has the theme of innovations and challenges in mental health.

The Founder's Day lecture at 2pm will be presented by comedian, writer and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax who, having battled depression for most of her life, decided to explore the neuroscience behind the illness and its treatments. She went on to complete a master's degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy at Oxford University.

The movement of psychotherapy over the past 100 years has been away from open-ended, exploratory and immeasurable therapies to focus on patient-centred, practical "here and now" therapies that can be measured, explains Prof Lucey.

“The idea of therapies like mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy [CBT] is that you skill the patient who becomes the expert by experience in their own treatment and can work on their own wellness on a continuous basis. The evidence is there that mindfulness and CBT do work and the evidence is there that some of the safer medications in appropriate uses do work.”


The average time from onset of symptoms for depression to treatment is 10 years, says Prof Lucey, yet 10 or 12 sessions of a therapy can make a radical difference to a person’s life.

Michelle McDonagh

Michelle McDonagh

Michelle McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about health and family