Government strategy aims to reduce suicide deaths by 10%

Plan includes classes on dealing with stress for students but no extra funding for services

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Dr Shekhar Saxena from the World Health Organisationat the launch of the “Connecting for Life” suicide prevention strategy at Farmleigh House in Dublin. Photograph: Robbie Reynolds Photography.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Dr Shekhar Saxena from the World Health Organisationat the launch of the “Connecting for Life” suicide prevention strategy at Farmleigh House in Dublin. Photograph: Robbie Reynolds Photography.

 

A new Government suicide prevention strategy launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Wednesday aims to reduce the number of people self-harming and taking their own lives by 10 per cent over the next five years.

“Connecting for life” is aimed at supporting communities to prevent and respond to people at risk of suicide.

Controversially, the blueprint does not involve additional spending but seeks to makes best use of existing resources and direct vulnerable people to available services.

Latest figures indicate there was a rise in the suicide rate in Ireland between 2007 and 2011, specifically among men.

While the number of deaths fell from 541 in 2012 to 459 last year, experts say these most recent figures are provisional and final numbers are likely to be higher.

Some of the key measures and aims outlined today in the new blueprint include:

* Expanding the number of specially trained nurses in accident and emergency units

* 24/7 crisis intervention to be available in every mental health service.

* Classes for second-level students aimed at building resilience and improving the ability to deal with stress

* Improving data and research into deaths by suicide

* Monitoring and evaluation measures to track progress against set indicators over the next five years

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said despite financial constraints, the Government will continue to maintain mental health as a priority.

“Suicide prevention is everyone’s concern and this strategy is a national plan for the whole of Government and the whole of society to work together,” Mr Kenny said.

Minister of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch said tackling the stigma around these issues is crucial if society is to reduce the numbers taking their own lives.

“We are supporting organisations that are supporting people in our communities who are stressed, depressed or need to talk,” Ms Lynch said.

“One size doesn’t fit all in mental health and the range of services reflects this. As part of this strategy, we need to connect with ourselves, our families, our communities and the services that are on offer.”

Critics, however, say additional funding is crucial to improving mental health services and point to long delays in appointing promised staff over recent years.

Of an extra 252 mental health staff promised last year, just 52 have been hired while a further 70 are at various stages of recruitment.

Campaigners pointed out there are 1,000 fewer staff employed in the sector compares to 2008.

Government officials say a shortage of qualified professionals, rather than funding, is a key obstacle in expanding staffing numbers.

The Mental Health Reform has welcomed the plan, but has expressed concern that key aims lack a time-frame by which they should be achieved.

“A schedule for each of the actions should be agreed quickly so that those monitoring the strategy can identify actions that are falling behind and take remedial steps early on in the implementation process,” said Dr Shari McDaid, director of Mental Health Reform.