Treating alcohol and drug abuse is key to stopping suicide

Treating alcohol and drug abuse is key to stopping suicide
Pat Buckley TD. Pic: Denis Scannell

The treatment of drug and alcohol abuse, in conjunction with the treatment of mental health, is essential if we want to seriously tackle suicide in Cork, according to a local TD.

Cork East representative Pat Buckley made the comments in response to a recent study carried out by the National Suicide Research Foundation which is based in Cork.

The findings revealed that in the vast majority of suicides in Cork, either alcohol or drugs were a key factor.

“The study in question looked at 121 cases of suicide in Cork over a 6 year period. The fact 121 deaths by suicide took place in just 72 months is cause for serious alarm and focused action,” said Deputy Buckley.

“Alcohol was found in the body in 52% of cases. This in itself may not seem too surprising but in 65% of the cases examined, the person had a history of alcohol or drug abuse. Alcohol and drugs are often used to self-medicate by people experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. In the longer term, this abuse is not just damaging to our health but severely damaging to our mental health also and in too many cases prevents people from seeking or receiving sufficient care.” 

The Sinn Fein TD said the health service currently treats substance abuse and mental health separately, even when a single person is struggling with both, and called for a more well-rounded approach to tackling the issue.

“This is called Dual Diagnosis and while it has received some attention recently, people are not being treated properly for mental health issues because of the existence of a current or former abuse problem,” he said.

“Recently, the HSE informed me that there are now 29 fewer addiction counsellors working for them than there was 10 years ago. We have to properly resource alcohol and drug treatment services and provide the support for people who want to recover. We must also ensure that addiction is never a block to proper mental health treatment and that no one falls through the cracks in the future.” 

Deputy Buckley said he welcomed the recent research into the issue and said the the improvement of our knowledge on suicide, its risk factors, and the realities of what those who may contemplate need for supports “not only helps us to tackle the problem through policy but helps all of society better understand the issue and assist loved ones and friends in seeking help”.

Anyone who is affected by the issues raised in this article is encouraged to contact the Pieta House helpline on 1800 247 247 or The Samaritans helpline on 116 123.

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