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Save grieving families from 'trial-like' suicide inquests: Console

Suicide-prevention charity says Ireland should look to Scotland to help suffering relatives.

People affected by suicide at the March for Suicide Prevention in Dublin earlier this year.
People affected by suicide at the March for Suicide Prevention in Dublin earlier this year.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated 11.15pm

INVESTIGATIONS INTO SUICIDES should be held in private to save grieving families the further trauma of “trial-like” inquests, a national suicide-prevention charity said earlier today.

Console CEO and founder Paul Kelly said Ireland’s policy of holding public inquests after any suicide should be looked at to fix a “deeply intrusive system” which didn’t apply to other tragic deaths.

Speaking at a conference for World Suicide Prevention Day at Croke Park, he said the system in Ireland could be brought into line with other regions – like Northern Ireland and Scotland – where open inquests were only held when there was a clear public interest.

Suicide was only decriminalised in the Republic in 1993 and inquests remain mandatory – and open to both the public and the media.

“Families bereaved by suicide have gone through one of the most devastating events possible, and in many ways they can feel as if they are on being put on trial at a public inquest,” Kelly said today.

Traumatised families can be asked to give evidence, suicide notes can be made public and family members can be questioned about last conversations and the deceased’s state of mind.
Deeply private information about drugs or alcohol in the deceased’s system, or if they had a row with someone before ending their life, can all be discussed in a public forum with the media in attendance.”

NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH CONFERENCES Console CEO and founder Paul Kelly. Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

The youth suicide rate in Ireland is the fourth highest in the EU and men make up the overwhelming share of cases.

The international approach

Inquests in England and Wales are also open to the public and media, although suicide notes and personally letters are not normally read out – unless a coroner chooses to.

In most states in Australia, open inquests into suicides are only held when the exact cause of death are in question or if there is a clear public interest in the case.

The media is commonly banned from naming the dead during inquests into suicides unless surviving families agree to the details being published.

Give families a say

Console services director Kieran Austin told TheJournal.ie it should be a family’s right to decide whether information about their loved-ones deaths be made public.

“At the moment they don’t have a choice – and we are calling for them to have that choice,” he said.

Helplines 

  • Samaritans: 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • 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)

First published 12.30pm

READ: Lynch: ‘We have to be careful about cases where we suspect suicide but there’s no evidence’

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

About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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