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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 18 July, 2018
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Governments called on to form national plans for suicide prevention

Ireland is one country with such a plan, Reach Out, which has been in operation since 2005.

Image: support via Shutterstock

POLICY-MAKERS HAVE been called on to ‘embrace the increased public dialogue about suicide’ and introduce national plans to tackle the issue.

The call was made in yesterday’s report on suicide prevention by the World Health Organisation.

It detailed how out of the 90 countries surveyed, 41 had no national strategy or action plan to tackle the issue of suicide.

In 28, a far-reaching national strategy had been developed.

PastedImage-82349 Source: WHO

These plans involve a government department, generally the health ministry, bringing together various stakeholders and other individual government departments to play their role in education and prevention, with an overarching national policy.

Areas recommended include education, public media, justice, social welfare, religion, transportation and agriculture.

WHO recommends that a plan would involve these actions:

  • Engage key stakeholders
  • Reduce access to means
  • Conduct surveillance and improve data quality
  • Raise awareness
  • Engage the media
  • Mobilise the health system and train health workers
  • Change attitudes and beliefs
  • Conduct evaluation and research
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy

Ireland has its own national plan for suicide prevention, known as Reach Out. The National Office for Suicide Prevention, part of the HSE, was formed to oversee this suicide prevention strategy and to coordinate suicide prevention initiatives around the country.

The plan was launched in 2005 and comes to an end this year, and submissions have now been called for on the next stage of this - National Framework for Suicide Prevention, which will run from 2015 to 2018.

The WHO report singles out one element of Ireland’s action plan for special mention – the National Registry of Deliberate Self-Harm.

Its main aims include establishing the extent and nature of hospital-treated deliberate self harm in Ireland, and to monitor these trends.

In Japan, suicides increased markedly to 24,391 in 1998 from 23,863 the year previous.

“Most people considered this rapid increase to have arisen from the country’s socioeconomic problems,” the report reads. In the following years, pressure grew the government to take action . The Basic Act for Suicide Prevention was introduced in 2006, and made suicide prevention an overarching government policy.

An aim of this was to not only take into account mental health issues, but also the complex range of suicide-related factors.

Suicides fell

While a gradual decrease began in 2009, and the number of suicides fell below 30,000 in 2012, there has since been a rise in youth suicides.

However, during this period, there was a “marked decrease in suicides related to economic and livelihood issues”, the WHO report notes.

The report also looks at Chile, which has responded to increase suicide rates in last 20 years, particularly among men and young people.

Programmes in schools

The government developed a National Suicide Prevention Plan, incorporating medical staff training, preventative programmes in schools, a crisis helpline, and surveillance of all cases.

The next phase of this plan, launched in 2011, has a goal of achieving a 10% decrease in the youth suicide rate.

Scotland‘s ran a programme called Choose Life between 2002 and 2012, with the aim of reversing a rising suicide rate and reduce it by 20%.

The £20.4 million programme included objectives such ass an coordinated response by local services such as police, welfare, and housing; a multi-profession training programmes; and financial support for local community and neighbourhood interventions.

A review in 2013 found the rate had fallen by 18%. However, the WHO report noted that “it is difficult to determine if the decline can be attributed to the programme as a whole or to any particular elements of it”, and said the programme needed to more ‘sustainable’ by incorporating its objectives into national policy.

The report read:

The evaluation also underlined the need for targeted action such as improved integration of clinical services, including substance misuse treatment services, at national level.

Helplines

  • Console 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression anxiety)

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie - (suicide, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: Three-quarters of suicides take place in low-income regions >

More: One person takes their own life every 40 seconds – WHO report >

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Nicky Ryan

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