New suicide prevention strategy to focus on schools

Republic ranks fourth highest in EU for young people taking their own lives

‘Connecting for life’, a new youth suicide prevention strategy, is to focus on helping secondary school students to deal with stress.

‘Connecting for life’, a new youth suicide prevention strategy, is to focus on helping secondary school students to deal with stress.

 

All secondary school students will receive training on how to cope with stress and improve resilience as part of a new five-year Government strategy to reduce the number of people taking their own lives.

Latest figures show Ireland ranks fourth highest in the EU for deaths by suicide among young people, even though our overall suicide rate is below the European average.

“Connecting for life”, a national suicide prevention strategy to be published next week, will help teachers identify risk factors among vulnerable students. It will also seek to promote problem-solving among students themselves rather using alcohol or drugs to relieve stress.

Many of these classes may be delivered by independent experts rather than teachers, as research indicates students often respond better to outside facilitators.

Another key feature of the strategy will be to expand the use of crisis nurses and other health professionals in acute hospitals to identify patients at risk of self-harm or suicide and guide them towards support services.

Stronger links between acute hospitals and mental health services are identified as a crucial challenge in the blueprint, which covers the period from 2015 to 2020.

Kathleen Lynch, Minister of State with responsibility for mental health services, confirmed that the strategy would not receive new funding. Instead, she said, it would seek to make best use out of existing resources.

“We need to connect all of these services. It’s about making sure everyone – schools, communities, voluntary groups or health services – are working together and have the same message,” Ms Lynch said.

Critics, however, say funding is crucial to improving mental health services and point to pledges to hire additional staff over recent years which have consistently met with delays.

New figures show the number of mental health staff overall is down by about 1,000 compared with before the recession as a result of unfilled vacancies.

The number of people self- harming and dying by suicide rose during the economic collapse, research indicates, reversing a declining trend.

While there have been plans to recruit staff, the process is proving slow. Of an extra 251 mental health posts pledged last year, just 52 have been hired, while a further 70 are at various stages of the process.

The Samaritans provides confidential emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress. Tel: 116123 or email jo@samaritans.org.