CALLS have been made to create a national Suicide Prevention Authority following the renowned success of the Road Safety Authority (RSA).
In 2017, 17 suicides were recorded in Clare while there were four people killed on the roads.
Since the RSA was founded, national road deaths have more than halved from 365 people in 2006 to 157 road traffic accident deaths in 2018.
With this in mind, Ennis-based councillor, Mary Howard (FG) has proposed a specific suicide prevention authority similar in structure to the RSA that would deliver an effective solution.
According to Cllr Howard, the RSA identified shortcomings and drove a cultural shift in attitudes to road safety in Ireland, including the introduction of seat belts and a focus on eradicating drink driving.
“We need a similar cultural shift on the issue of self harm and suicide,” she said. “A Suicide Prevention Authority could drive and co-ordinate this, through education, infrastructure, technology, licensing and regulation, finance and beyond.”
“When you look at how successful the RSA has been in bringing the amount of road deaths down by identifying all the different factors – they examine every road death and they look at the mitigating factors and I think we need the same type of organisation to deal with suicide in the exact same way,” added Cllr Howard.
Making reference to the significant amount of funding received by the RSA, Ms Howard said that a similar coordinated approach towards suicide prevention could create awareness and educate people from an early age.
“Members of our consistency have died by suicide,” she told fellow elected members at a recent meeting of Clare County Council.
“We need to see what we can do about. It continues be the biggest killer among young men
Like road deaths, every suicide is preventable,” she added.
The authority, if successful, would have its own ring fenced funds addressing the ‘patch work’ nature of the mental health services that currently exist, helping prevent suicides.
Nationally, 342 people died by suicide in 2018, while there were 157 road fatalities.
“They may be a friend, neighbour or colleague, but each is someone’s son or daughter, parent or sibling,” said Mary Howard.
“Every suicide sends a devastating ripple effect through the wider community. Yet suicide can be preventable.
“Suicide continues to be the biggest killer of young people in Ireland but affects all ages and demographics in every community. Almost three times more people die by suicide than die on our roads, yet over ten times more is spent on road safety than on suicide prevention. The reality for many in crisis is that there is a lack of sufficient services for them at their time of need,” she concluded.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Samaritans helpline 116 123 or Aware helpline 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247.