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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 21 May, 2019
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'No one should suffer alone, suicide is a community issue and everyone's business'

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day today. Here’s what events are happening to mark it.

Mental health activists in Berlin, Germany in 2014.
Mental health activists in Berlin, Germany in 2014.
Image: DPA/PA Images

THE THEME OF this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, which is happening today, is “take a minute, change a life”.

The World Health Organisation estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds.

With hundreds of mental health charity events taking place in Ireland and around the globe to mark the prevention day, TheJournal.ie spoke to CEO of Suicide or Survive (SOS), Caroline McGuigan, to find out the importance of taking a moment to learn how to prevent suicide. 

“Tragically at the moment, we’re living in a country where there’s still a lot of stigma. We’re talking about [mental health] but we still struggle to share with people when we’re in a bad place, so we still have a long way to go,” McGuigan told TheJournal.ie. 

“We need to keep highlighting that you have to invest in your mental health because everybody will take a dip at some stage, that’s part of life and things come our way,” she said.

The reason behind World Suicide Prevention Day is that people do have thoughts and feelings of death because they come into our hearts and our heads. It’s about not turning it into an action.

Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day, St Patrick’s Mental Health Services released its annual mental health attitude survey.

It found that 25% of respondents would tell no one if they were experiencing suicidal thoughts.

64% of people believe that being treated for a mental health difficulty is seen as a sign of personal failure.

Paul Gilligan, CEO of St Patrick’s MHS, said: “We know that one of the biggest barriers to seeking help for a mental health difficulty is stigma. Year on year we are disappointed to find that despite the many public awareness campaigns being run, Irish attitudes are still fraught with stigma and negativity.

Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day it is essential that we emphasise the importance of not letting stigma stand in the way of seeking help when in distress. Recovery from mental health difficulties is not just possible but should be expected with the right support and help.

‘Taking ownership of your mental health’

SOS, just one of the Irish charities holding events this weekend, is hosting its national tea break campaign throughout the month of September.

In the lead up to today, SOS has been encouraging people to get talking about mental health over a cup of tea, by hosting community tea breaks. Each tea break is aiming to raise funds to assist SOS in continuing its work and programmes.

The charity runs a range of programmes that provide tips, tools and techniques to “allow everyone to take ownership of their own mental health and wellness”.

McGuigan founded SOS in 2003, born from her own personal experience of anxiety and depression. She explained the reasoning behind the tea break campaign.

“The first purpose of it is to keep the awareness around mental health and suicide, and the second is we fundraise. We put the funds that we raise back into our community,” she said.

“There is a lot of [mental health] support in our communities but we’re not signposting it and a lot of us don’t know about the services that exist in our communities.

The word suicide, even now, people really, really struggle with it. For years we couldn’t say the word suicide.
To actually have a World Suicide Prevention Day is feeding into hope and saying to people that there are ways that all of us together can prevent suicide.

McGuigan said that it’s important to remember that, when dealing with suicide, there isn’t just one solution to prevention, and that there isn’t just one organisation out there with the answers.

What else is planned for the day?

Cycle Around The Globe is the worldwide initiative taking place between 2 – 17 September for World Suicide Prevention Day to help raise awareness of the risks of suicide.

As of today, 168 participants and groups have signed up for the event in 32 different countries around the world.

Together, in various locations around the world, these participants are pledging to cycle 96,537 kilometres. The initial aim of the initiative was to collectively cycle 40,075km, in other words, the circumference of the globe.

Everyone taking part is being urged to raise $250 (€208), either for the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) or for local or national mental health charities.

Acting president of IASP Jane Pirkis said that the theme of this year is one of motivation and empowerment. She said that we all have a “responsibility to support those in our communities who become vulnerable”.

By reaching out and checking in on someone in distress, we can all make a difference.

In Ireland, Pieta House, a suicide and self-harm crisis centre, is hosting its own cycle campaign today to contribute to Cycle Around The Globe.

11082017_JB1-23 Pieta House is hosting its own cycling event today. Source: Pieta House

Now in its third year, Pieta 100 is happening in six locations across the country – Dublin/Kildare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Limerick and Tipperary/Offaly. It’s a 50 or 100km cycling fundraiser.

Since 2015, over 2,800 participants have taken part in Pieta’s event.

Cindy O’Connor, chief clinical officer at Pieta House said:

No one should suffer alone, suicide is a community issue and everyone’s business. Together we can fight the scourge of suicide and reach out to others when they are in need.

“We can remind people that yes, they may have reasons for dying, but they also have reasons for living. This is a day to spread hope and positivity and to reduce stigma.”

With a similar message, Pieta House CEO Brian Higgins said:

“It’s about starting and finishing a journey in a time that suits you. That’s actually a reflection of how our work at Pieta House is done.

It’s about engaging with people and sitting alongside them on a journey which can take as long as it needs to for that person. We will travel alongside them, supporting them.

“In the same way that someone out on a cycle can put a supportive hand on your back to help push you up a hill, that’s really the job of Pieta House too.”

Suicide is the number one cause of death among 18 to 25-year-old men in Ireland. Our country has one of the highest suicide rates in the 14 to 24 age group in the EU.

For more information about other events taking place across Ireland for World Suicide Prevention Day, click here.

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • 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)

Read: ‘This is a wake-up call’: Number of medical card holders on anti-depressants rose by 50,000 in five years

More: This is how a Dublin teenager single-handedly set off to raise suicide awareness in her local area

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