Comment: Dealing with mental health issues

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The annual report of the National Office for Suicide Prevention released last week further underlines the scale of the problem which has affected every community in the country.

The annual report of the National Office for Suicide Prevention released last week further underlines the scale of the problem which has affected every community in the country.

The official figures show that young and middle-aged men remain most at risk from suicide, with 495 people taking their own lives in 2010, of which over 80 per cent were men.

Meanwhile, the annual report of the National Registry of Deliberate Self-Harm’s revealed there were 12,010 incidents of self-harm recorded in emergency departments last year, which represents a 12 per cent higher rate than that recorded prior to the downturn.

According to the registry, women aged in their late teens and men in their early 20s were most likely to hurt themselves.

This may hardly be news to anyone, but it emphasises once again the challenge of reducing suicide rates and addressing the whole issue of mental health in society.

The above figures are way too high, and unacceptable. The human cost is devastating.

In the run up to next month’s Budget there have been renewed calls for an emphasis on mental health issues.

Mental Health Reform has launched a pre budget campaign calling on the government to invest in measures to improve mental health. Orla Barry, Director of Mental Health Reform points up the need to “have mental health services based in the community, with a range of multi disciplinary staff who offer a range of treatment options.”

And much more is needed in the area of suicide awareness and prevention and tackling issues such as social isolation and exclusion.

Last week, Deputies and Senators from across the political spectrum launched a joint pre-budget submission on mental health. The Government’s mental health policy ‘A Vision for Change’ sets out partnership between service users, family members and mental health services. Much has been done, but clearly more is needed.

Laois Connects, promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, was launched by RTE’s Mary Kennedy at the Dunamaise Arts Centre last week. This is the second year of this commendable initiative which shows the potential of what can be achieved. Laois Connects runs from September 28 to October 5 and its busy and interactive programme has something for everyone.