A new suicide intervention centre is needed in Ennis to cope with the significant increase in the number of people expressing suicidal thoughts. That’s the case being made by the support group, Pieta House Mid-West, which has been monitoring contacts in relation to suicide over the past three years.
The latest official figures reveals 15,000 dialogue contacts were made with the Clare and Ennis branch of the Samaritans in 2009 and this increased by about 16% to 17,383 in 2011. In 2010, 15,922 contacts were made by way of phone, face-to-face meetings and emails delivered.
It is estimated that between 15% and 20% of all calls made to the Samaritans are from people who relay suicidal thoughts.
Further evidence of the surge in the number of people who are contemplating taking their own lives is also reflected in the number of referrals to Pieta House in Mungret, Limerick, which opened in 2010.
Tom McEvoy, organiser of the Ennis Darkness Into Light suicide awareness event on Saturday, May 12, has confirmed there is already a marked increase in the number of people using Pieta House this year compared to last year. In total, 348 people used this centre in 2011, 54 from Clare.
Mr McEvoy says a new outreach centre is needed in Ennis to cope with the increasing numbers of people who are in the acute stage of suicidal distress.
He said that increased financial support is needed from the Government to help Pieta House expand its service nationwide.
The Government currently provides Pieta House with an annual contribution of €130,000, which equates to 10% of its annual running costs of €1.3 million to run five centres between Dublin and Limerick.
A once-off €100,000 grant from the National Lottery was also donated to help fund the capital cost of providing the Mid-West Centre in Mungret.
Acknowledging that the president of the Irish Society of Suicidology, Deputy Dan Neville, has been a great advocate for more suicide prevention measures, Mr McEvoy also noted Taoiseach Enda Kenny had supported a number of their promotional events.
However, Mr McEvoy stressed annual funding of €500,000 is needed to achieve the group’s aim of providing a centre within 100km of all facilities.
“The cost of suicide to Ireland is estimated at between €850m and €900m annually. Pieta House fills an extremely important gap in our collective battle against suicide. There are some groups doing very good work in the prevention and postvention areas, but Pieta House is unique in the intervention area and are determined that their service becomes available nationwide.
“The HSE and ICGP are actively referring to the organisation and approve of their approach. The individuals, who are deemed to be high risk, are referred to Pieta House.
“Now there is somewhere to go. The demand for the services of Pieta House continues to grow,” he said.
Pieta House is a suicide and self-harm crisis centre. It is the only organisation in the country providing a professional, face-to-face, free therapeutic service for people in the acute stages of suicidal distress. The primary aim of Pieta House is to reduce suicide by helping people get through that critical phase when suicide becomes a plan rather than just an idea.
In addition to Mungret, Pieta House has a centre in Lucan as well as its three outreach centres in Finglas, Tallaght and Ballyfermot.
Pieta House’s annual fundraising event is Darkness into Light, which takes place at Lees Road on Saturday, May 12, at 4am.
Over 550 participated in last year’s symbolic event, which was organised to give hope to those affected by suicide and self-harm and raised in excess of €11,000.
Meanwhile, Gerry Dobbin, branch director of Clare and Ennis Samaritans, explained the charity provides a free confidential 24-hour service to people experiencing despair, distress or suicidal feelings.
When people are suicidal, Mr Dobbin said they can often be confused and their volunteers are trained to help them to explore their feelings and discuss the caller’s options with them.
Stressing the Samaritans is not a referral agency, Mr Dobbin explained they don’t try to make an assessment of what a person needs and instead provides a listening service to help any caller including, those expressing suicidal feelings, to express themselves.
If a caller specifically requests a service, he noted an appropriate accredited agency such as Pieta House, Clare Haven House or the AA may be suggested, depending on the individual circumstances.
To contact the Samaritans ring 1850609090 or email Jo@samaritans.org. Pieta House Mid-West can be contacted on 061 484444.