Resilience key to tackling suicide problem - Dr Heffernan

THE taboo of suicide and the failure to tackle the issue in a practical way have been highlighted by one of the country’s leading mental health educators. Dr Fergus Heffernan, consultant psychologist said that people had to be taught to show resilience in times of despair and isolation.

THE taboo of suicide and the failure to tackle the issue in a practical way have been highlighted by one of the country’s leading mental health educators. Dr Fergus Heffernan, consultant psychologist said that people had to be taught to show resilience in times of despair and isolation.

He said hope was never as important a commodity as it is now and said that people have lost the ability to take control of their own health and to show resilience.

His comments come at a time when the city and county has experienced a number of incidents where people have tried to take their own lives. The emergency services have had to deal with a number of call-outs in the last number of weeks that have numbed communities locally.

There is growing concern for the mental health of the people in communities.

Thankfully, Dr Heffernan has some positive news for those who are concerned for themselves, family members, friends or neighbours. “The good thing is that we can all be taught the resilience we need to get us through the bad times,” he said. “It is a quality we can learn once we receive it in a simple, practical format,” he added. He said that for too long people had been taught to keep their feelings secret and this had affected their ability to take control of their own health. “We need to take suicide and the risk of it out of the shadows, not just for the three weeks after something happens but over a long sustained period.

“Speakers who are experts in this field should be talking in every community hall and parish centre in the country to spread the message and to improve our understanding of the subject,” he said.

And a timely seminar on Developing Community Resilience and Understanding” as part of World Suicide Prevention Day on Friday, September 9 will be held in Butler House.

The incidence of suicide in Ireland is high by EU standards, and for the last complete year for which we have figures, 2009, a total of 527 people took their lives up from 427 in 2008.

In 2009, there were 239 people killed in Irish roads, less than half the same number that ended their own lives in the same year.

And hope is only a phone call or a conversation away for those who need a supportive voice and/or a listening ear. The Samaritans offer a 24 hour service in Kilkenny, 365 days a year and their free number is 1850 60 90 90.

Signs

There are signs to look out for those who may be at risk: Being withdrawn unsociable, low-spirited or depressed; drinking alcohol excessively or becoming dependent on drugs; finding it difficult to relate to others; eating much less or much more than usual and putting themselves down (self-mockingly as well as seriously), e.g. “Nobody loves me” or “I’m a waste of space”.