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Ann Marie Shine-ing light in the darkness

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EVEN though Covid-19 restrictions will be substantially reduced over the coming weeks, a local mental health advocate has stressed people who are feeling isolated or depressed will still need support.
Shine regional development officer, Ann Marie Flanagan has urged people to be on the look out for those who have been badly hit by the lack of proper social interaction during the pandemic.
While Covid-19 has presented new challenges for people who already felt isolated, Ms Flanagan said one of the positive developments that emerged from the pandemic was how people rallied to form community response teams to bring medication and groceries to those in need.
She urged people involved in Covid-19 response team to try and maintain contact with an elderly person who is isolated and let them know supports are still available.
Her views were expressed in the run up to Suicide Prevention Day on Friday, September 10.
She stressed it is important people drop in on their friends and neighbours to keep that social connection.
Some people are regarded as having a high vulnerability to suicide and self-harm. They include young men, the elderly, and those with prexisting mental health difficulties who are prone to depression and negatibe thinking.
“Young men are at the highest risk of suicide and are the most vulnerable.
“Yet, society has a way to go to be more responsive. If a young man comes and asks for help, we should be able to respond more quickly.
“There are serious resource issues around child and adolescent mental health.
“We know that some young men who are in contact with the judicial system can have mental health issues.
There needs to be a more holistic response to assessing and responding to their needs.
“For young people who are involved in drug and alcohol misuse, we need to look at the underlying issues.”
She said some young people presenting at the Emergency Department in a hospital with an acute mental health difficulty were often turned away because they didn’t have a prexisting mental health issue, and don’t fit into a mental health category.
In addition to older people living longer and retiring earlier, she said there is an onus on society to provide additional home support for the elderly, transport to access services and independent living support services.
She said people need to be more responsive and supportive to those who have engaged in self-harm or expressed suicidal thoughts to try and eliminate the stigma, which shouldn’t be associated with any of these difficulties.
She urged anyone who needs help to reach out and contact agencies such as Shine.
“If anyone has a concern and wants to talk they can contact Shine. A lot of people don’t ask for help because they don’t know what to say.
“When people contact Shine, I congratulate them for reaching out for help.
“It is the professional’s job to engage with people and help them to figure out what is triggering a sense of hopelessness, despair or sucidial thoughts and where they can seek further help.
“It is important to talk and share.”
In view of the shortage of general praticioners, particularly in rural areas, she said the government will have to address this issue.
Thanks to the myriad of different mental health organisations that can help people, she pointed out that every mental health patient doesn’t always need to see a psychiatrist.
She stressed a person doesn’t have to have a prexisting mental health issue to feel a sense of hopelessness, and noted this shouldn’t be a barrier for seeking support.
“Communities are regulalry shocked when they hear about the death of soomeone by suicide because this person was presenting as very high functioning, productive and had a very large personality.”
Anyone who wishes to seek support can contact Pieta House on 1800 247 247 or Shine at 087 7878222 or email

by Dan Danaher

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