THE FOUNDER of one of Ireland’s largest suicide prevention charities has called for the government to establish a new independent national authority for the prevention of suicide – claiming leaving the issue in political hands is a recipe of disaster.
Noel Smyth, the founder of the 3Ts charity, said an authority with similar power to HIQA or the Road Safety Authority should be established so that governments can be called to account and encouraged to act to address certain shortcomings.
“When Róísín Shortall resigned last week, within 24 hours she was replaced,” Smyth said this morning, in reaction to reports that the number of suicides in Ireland had continued to increase while the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention went without a director for over a year.
“It’s a fair statement to say this government like successes when they come looking to you for your votes,” Smyth told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“They tell you all the good things they’re going to promise and so as far as mental health and suicide is concerned.
But to a large extent they’re unaccountable – there’s no votes in suicide. Families are so bereaved and so broken, desolate, and also feel so stigmatised when somebody dies from suicide that there’s no real human outcry when events like this happen.
To a large extent, society itself treats suicide like a second class death. [...] People see it as a clear indication that people in power think suicide is something you can just wash your hands of.
Smyth said the situation with the current office – which is a HSE subsidiary – and the State’s financial affairs meant the head of the current office would show restraint in criticising government inaction, for fear of jeopardising other funding.
“At a time of austerity they are afraid of coming out and saying, ‘You’re making an absolute bags of this thing’,” he saidd, adding: “The failings of life have to be taken away from politicians because they just don’t care.”
Smyth argued that creating a HIQA-like agency for suicide prevention would allow it “to call government, government departments, and all the other people who are responsible for saving lives into account.”
Smyth was responding to an Irish Examiner report which revealed that the directorship of the HSE office had now fallen empty again.
The Irish Examiner’s report said the office’s previous head Geoff Day had resigned last year citing resource constraints, and his replacement who only took the job in July has now been seconded to the Department of Health.
Mental health minister Kathleen Lynch said the position had been offered to a successor recently but that they had turned out the position.
Anyone affected by the issues in this piece can call 1Life, Ireland’s only dedicated 24/7 suicide prevention helpline, free of charge at 1800 247 100. The line is run by 3Ts in conjunction with Console and is manned at all times by trained counsellors.