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Fighting suicide in Ireland: "What stops people from reaching out is fear"

Pieta House has launched the Mind Our Men campaign

HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE sadly take their own lives in Ireland every year – and eight out of every 10 of them is male.

This fact was one of a myriad of reasons that led Pieta House to create a campaign focusing on reducing this number, by encouraging family members and friends of men in Ireland to learn more about the signs and symptoms that can lead to suicide.

Movement

Joan Freeman, CEO of Pieta House, spoke to TheJournal.ie about the newly-launched Mind Our Men campaign- which she describes as a movement – and her hopes for Ireland to one day be suicide-free.

“We have been working on it literally since last summer and trying to get it right,” said Freeman of Mind Our Men,

It’s not a campaign – it’s a movement we are trying to create. That people understand what we are trying to do – that is the main thing. It is mainly men who die by suicide. We need to focus on that cohort. It is great that we are going to have that nationwide focus, but we are going to go to every single county in the country and we are going to explode in every single county in the country.

As part of the county visits, Pieta House is asking local groups and initiatives to come on board and help them with this promotion.

Freeman says Mind Our Men aims “to equip every single person in this country with how to spot the signs of suicide”, and the county-to-county bus trip will include the presence of counsellors for those who need advice or someone to listen to them, as well as the opportunity for people to speak to others about their experiences.

Reality

The impetus for Mind Our Men came after Pieta House looked at the reality behind their own statistics. The 2011 figures showed that 53 per cent of the people they dealt with were women, while 47 per cent were men. “We were really smugly pleased,” recalled Freeman. But when they compared this to the actual figures for suicide in Ireland, they realised “that wasn’t reflecting that men were receiving help”.

When Pieta House looked deeper into this, they saw that the majority of the appointments for men at their services were made by women. “That is clearly saying men won’t seek help for themselves. They just won’t,” said Freeman. “What we need to is accept it and stop trying to turn men into women.”

Women already look after men – all I’m asking is we take one further step and to be alert to signs and triggers.

According to Freeman, one big trigger for men is the break-up of a relationship, and having this knowledge can alert people to be particularly mindful if a man they know is experiencing this.

We all truly believe that this will pass – that the difficulty will pass. It does for some people but for others it doesn’t. We always believe suicide will never come.

“I would think that our biggest problem is removing fear. What stops people form reaching out is fear,” said Freeman.

People are really good at talking about suicide, really good at it. There are so many brave people telling their story, it’s not enough though. It was great because it caused dialogue, but now we have to have the solution. Because if we don’t we will have despair. People will go on to believe [suicide] is inevitable and can’t be prevented.

She describes Mind Our Men as a positive movement, and indeed Freeman’s own positivity is inspiring. “I have no doubt that we can reduce suicide,” she said.

Pieta House is currently gearing up for its Darkness Into Light runs, and after they conclude it will begin its country-wide tour of the Mind Our Men campaign. Freeman is more than hopeful that Mind Our Men will have an impact on the number of men who take their own lives in Ireland.

Mind Our Men aims to show “that we are not helpless”, and empower friends and family. As part of the campaign, people are being encouraged to send in their stories to the website about their experiences with the approach. There will also be some short educational pieces put on the Mind Our Men website on the issue.

If any organisations around the country would like to talk to Pieta House about being part of the campaign as it visits different counties, they are invited to contact them via www.mindourmen.ie or www.pieta.ie. There is no cost involved – “this is our gift to the organisations”, said Freeman.

Read: Pieta House launches ‘Mind Our Men’ to reduce male suicide>

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