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Domestic violence

Cowardly and inexcusable is possibly the best way to describe the actions of those men who perpetrate violence against their wives or partners and their children.

There must be a zero tolerance to domestic violence, which flies in the face of accepted behaviour in modern, civilised society. Long gone are the days of women being regarded as part of a man’s goods and chattels and they deserve to be respected and treated as equals in any relationship.
It is extremely disturbing to learn that the number of Clare women and children seeking emergency accommodation in an Ennis-based refuge to escape domestic violence and abuse has almost doubled over the last 12 months.
Clare Haven Services has confirmed that 122 women and 235 children were forced to use their six family unit purpose-built emergency accommodation up to September 30 last, compared to 69 women and 117 children for the same period in 2008.
The number of women attending its drop-in facility, which is facing a 6% drop in funding, also went up from 294 to 349 over the last nine months.
The recession has been cited as one of the reasons for the increased demands for help. Unemployed men who may be of a violent disposition are spending more time at home and women who want to leave abusive relationships are finding it increasingly difficult to do so because of financial constraints and accessing even part-time work.
While very much in a minority, men also fall victim to domestic violence and they too deserve to be afforded support and protection, although this is far more difficult to address than dealing with women.

Let someone know
Death by suicide is something that families and entire communities find extremely difficult to come to terms with.  How to reduce the incidence of people, young and old and across all social spectrums, who die by suicide has been a burning question for a long, long time.
The current national radio advertising campaign, which aims to help prevent suicide, hammers home the message that people who die in this manner are people we meet every day in the streets. Fathers, mothers, employed, unemployed, teenagers, 20-somethings, people living in towns or isolated areas; there is no exclusive profile.
Of particular concern is the increase in the number of teenagers taking their own lives and there have been calls to improve the systems of early intervention to assist those at risk. It has emerged that an average of 46 children under the age of 14 die by suicide every year in this country.
While many of those who die by suicide have at some stage in their lives been under medical care or have been known to have suffered from depression or self harmed, in many other cases there are no prior indications that a person was at risk of attempting suicide. Either way, the deaths bring heartbreak and anguish to their families and friends
Last week, during Clare Mental Health Week, serious concerns were expressed that a deficit in Department of Health funding for Clare Mental Health Services could undermine efforts to expand work in the area of suicide prevention and in dealing with depression.
Expressing concern about the reduction in funding of almost €4 million to the Clare Mental Health Service, leading psychiatrist, Dr Moosajee Bhamjee claimed that some patients could be forced to wait up to six months to attend a public psychiatrist or a counsellor, while others might have to wait between four and six weeks for an outpatient’s appointment.
Deputy Pat Breen is critical of the fact that the Government’s national mental health policy, Vision for Change, has not materialised. Given that up to 500 people are dying by suicide nationally annually, he wants to see funding for Clare Mental Health Service increased rather than cut.
Deputy Joe Carey wants more work to be carried out on the prevention of suicide and depression in schools, following the revelation that there has been a 150% increase in the number of young people contacting Teenline, a suicide prevention helpline, since the start of this year.
A welcome development, however, is the launch by the HSE of a new website, www.letsomeoneknow.ie, which aims to help young people gain a greater awareness and understanding of mental health and wellbeing. It is hoped that through this first step, young people who are experiencing problems will go on to confide in family or close friends. Talking is seen as an important safety valve for people at risk of suicide as it can pave the way for further help to be sought and provided.
The importance of this approach is borne out in the findings of HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention’s Young People and Mental Health, A National Survey, undertaken by Millward Brown Lansdowne. The research, carried out among over 500 respondents, shows that alcohol, peer pressure and drugs are the top three problems young people face today, while bullying and exam pressure are also in the top five.
When asked about who would be most helpful to someone with a problem, the majority of young people said that they would listen to and support someone going through a tough time. Talking to a friend, family member or someone his or her own age was seen as the most useful, followed by a youth worker, GP or teacher.
Self-service sources such as the Internet and social media/networking sites are rated as more helpful than asking an expert but knowledge of organisations/websites that offer help to young people in relation to mental health is low.
People at risk of suicide are among the most vulnerable in our society so the Government must try, if at all possible, to avoid spending cuts, which would impact on mental health services.


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