Youth suicide highlighted at UCD student union event


IRELAND HAS the fourth highest rate of youth suicide in Europe, a students union event in UCD heard yesterday.

The event, aimed at highlighting mental health support services for students, marked the third anniversary of “Please Talk”, a mental health awareness campaign set up in response to the deaths of a number of UCD students by suicide.

Barry Colfer, former president of UCD students’ union and a founder of Please Talk said: “We want to make students aware that it’s okay not to feel okay. We want them to know where to get support if they’re in crisis.”

Awarded funding by the HSE, the website now provides a directory of on-campus mental health services for students in 27 colleges.

Speaking at the event, Geoff Day, director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention, said “Ireland now has the fourth highest rate of youth suicide in Europe and a worrying number of people self-harming.”

Mr Day said there had been a rise in suicide in the 1990s, peaking in 2001. He said that while a decline followed, numbers reached their highest figure in 2009 with 527 deaths by suicide.

Mr Day said that while Government funding was down across all sectors, his office continues to fund voluntary organisations.

“It’s critical to get youth groups involved in tackling the issue. This is why the HSE is supporting Please Talk to go nationwide.”

Fine Gael TD and president of the Irish Association of Suicidology Dan Neville, who also addressed the conference, said “suicide is now the most common cause of death amongst young men in Ireland.” Mr Neville said that while there were 239 road deaths in 2009, there were 527 deaths by suicide. He said that there was €40 million in funding for the prevention of road deaths, but organisations involved in suicide prevention got just €4.5 million. Mr Neville called for “an immediate allocation of €10 million to the National Office for Suicide Prevention to cope with increased suicide risk as people tried to cope with financial pressures.”

Dr Tony Bates, chairman of Headstrong, an organisation that aims to change how Ireland thinks about mental health, told student welfare representatives that their challenge was to “make mental health sound like something students should want”.

He said that Irish people’s conception of mental health was changing, “mental health is not about a discrete group of people who need to be treated; it’s for everyone. It’s about finding that thing that helps us to feel real”. Dr Bates told students that “listening to your peers is an invitation to them to listen to themselves.”