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Call for special taskforce to Tallaght area after concerns about suicide deaths

Sinn Féin’s Sean Crowe says access to mental health care is ‘missing or thin on the ground’ in his constituency.

Sinn Féin's Sean Crowe
Sinn Féin's Sean Crowe
Image: Eamonn Farrell

A SINN FÉIN TD has called for a special task force to be established in Tallaght and surrounding areas to roll out a multi-agency response to suicides in the region.

TD Seán Crowe said a local Drug Task Force meeting was recently told that there have been four deaths by suspected suicide over a 12-day period.

He said the programme for government commits to greater access to mental health care, but he says services “are missing or thin on the ground” in his own constituency.

“We know that behind all these deaths there is a grieving family, friends, neighbours and loved ones,” he said.

In 2016, a multi-agency task force was set up in the Cork area after following concerns about the number of reported suicides in both Cork City and county.

The National Suicide Research Foundation found that while rates in Cork City were higher compared to the national suicide rates, it was lower compared to other areas in Ireland and stressed that it is important to consider the difference in population size when comparing regional to national rates.

Support services 

In response to concerns, the Health Services Executive (HSE) implemented a coordinated plan to provide relevant support services to the community.

The Cork Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention Action Plan 2017-2020 followed, aiming “to support local communities’ capacity to prevent and respond to suicidal behaviour”.

The introduction of the action plan states that the “shared concern about the tragic loss of life affecting families, friends and wider communities must never be forgotten”.

It included workshops and trainings in schools and community services, offering support to family members, friends and colleagues of the deceased and informing the media about the adherence to media guidelines for reporting of suicide.

“A task force was established in the Cork area, although I do not know how successful it was. I ask that we do something for these families. I am also concerned about the idea of suicidal ideation following these deaths. I do not want any more families in this situation,” said Crowe.

COSGRAVE FUNERAL758A5967_90525858 Sinn Féin's Sean Crowe Source: Eamonn Farrell

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this week, the Dublin South West TD said there is a lack of services to deal with issues relating to mental health and drug or alcohol dependency.

“It seems to be something that is impacting on all ages, that is the scary thing,” he said.

“We need to do something fundamentally different. Vulnerable people are told to present to emergency departments, which leaves everyone scrambling in a crisis,” said Crowe, who added that there needs to be environmental changes in the area, as well as the rollout of programmes in schools and local centres.

Under-resourcing of community supports 

Crowe said a lot of local community groups are doing their best to deal with situation, but they are buckling due to under-resourcing. “Where is the State in all this?” he asked.

Grace Hill of the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force said that while statistics nationally show the rates of suicide are falling, it does not marry with her experience on the ground.

In 2016, the Central Statistics Office record that 399 people died by suicide. Of that figure, nine are recorded as being in the South Dublin area.

suicide 2 Source: CSO

“I was shocked when I heard the recent news about the number of suicides in the area, but nothing is being done about the issue, it is going nowhere,” said Hill, who added that the issue of drug-related deaths had been growing since last summer.

“Drugs is not on the agenda until someone dies on O’Connell Street,” said the community worker.

Hill said a multi-disciplinary approach is needed, but that there is no funding restoration in sight.

The Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force is one of 14 Local Drugs Task Forces what were set up in 1997 to facilitate a more effective response to the issue of substance misuse.

Initially, the group was tasked with dealing with drugs but Hill explained that the issue of alcohol abuse was added to their brief in 2014.

Now they say they are continuously raising the issue of suicide – without any additional resources.

Alcohol issues 

While drugs is a key focus, she said the number one issue for them at the moment is alcohol. However, there is no single reason why people take their own lives. Suicide is a complex and multi-faceted behaviour.

“Services are on their knees and we are finding it very hard to retain staff. Salaries have not been restored, and people are leaving for other jobs. We can’t keep staff working on the frontline. Moral is so low and there is no sign of the restoration of our budget. Anyone who looks at our work can see it’s important – we are about saving lives,” said Hill.

Both Crowe and Hill said they were wholly dissatisfied with the Minister for State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly’s response when the matter was raised in the Dáil recently.

“Thankfully, the register of suicides in this country is going the right way and, while it is not where we want it to be, the numbers are dropping. There were 399 deaths by suicide last year. Funding has increased to €13 million this year for that office and we will continue to invest heavily in this area as we see results,” he said.

“Where is that money? Because we aren’t seeing of it in the Tallaght or Jobstown areas,” said Hill. She said the government is constantly talking up the end of the recession and the return to boom-time levels, but said: “We are not seeing a boom here.”

“We are hearing nothing and seeing nothing, and that needs to end now,” concluded Hill.

If you need to talk, please contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or text 087 2 60 90 90
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)  

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