We can all play a part in suicide prevention

Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention with Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, MARTIN RYAN gives an update on the work underway to reduce suicide and self-harm in Cork
We can all play a part in suicide prevention
Sinéad Glennon Head of Mental Health services Cork & Kerry HSE, Lord Mayor Cllr Mick Finn and Martin Ryan Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention, launching a new publication outlining the range of mental health supports available to young people in Cork. Picture: Gerard McCarthy

WHEN I write articles like this, I’m very aware of people who feel isolated, and families and communities who have been bereaved. Often, words are simply not enough to sooth the enormous loss people are feeling.

So when we launched Connecting for Life Cork (Cork’s suicide and self-harm reduction action plan) 18 months ago, I gave my commitment to work as hard as I can with all stakeholders to drive key actions under the plan.

I’m glad to say that in the 18 months, all those involved have been working very hard on a number of fronts.

Workstreams are in place to ensure that all sections of the Connecting for Life action plan become a reality. These workstreams are made up of HSE/Cork Kerry Community Healthcare staff; representatives from local authorities, representatives of other statutory agencies like the Gardai, and of course the community and voluntary sector.

These workstream have key targets in place, such as the promotion of supports available to our youth population. This led to the recent launch of a booklet on mental health supports available to young people over the age of 15 in Cork, which you can download at www.connectingforlifecork.ie.

Other achievements in the last 18 months include:

In conjunction with the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) and the coroners across Cork county and city, a real-time surveillance system for suicide has been established. Called the Suicide and Self-Harm Observatory, this initiative is unique in Europe and provides us with real-time information on suspected suicides, which can have a huge impact on how we respond and support families and communities. The NSRF also manages the National Self-Harm Registry Ireland, which informs clinical practice and policy about patterns and risk groups associated with self-harm and self-harm repetition. The NSRF can be contacted directly at info@nsrf.ie

We have a closer connection with the business community in terms of supporting positive mental health in the workplace.

All stakeholders are now working more closely together for a joined-up approach to mental health and services. This was particularly apparent across the entire county during last year’s Green Ribbon month, when more than 10,000 green ribbons were distributed and worn across Cork.

A regular newsletter is distributed to outline key developments in the implementation of Connecting for Life Cork

We can see a closer working relationship with key mental services within the HSE, and with our community and voluntary partners across Cork city and county.

The continual promotion of three free support numbers for anyone in crisis - The Samaritans are on 116 123 , Pieta House is on 1800 247 247 and Child line is on 1800 666 666. The media in Cork have been very supportive of this work. Posters promoting these services can be downloaded at connectingforlifecork.ie.

There has been increased training in courses like safeTALK and ASSIST , and an on- line booking system is in place.

The Samaritan and Cork City FC have partnered up to promote mental health and wellbeing.

This is just a sample of the work underway, and there are bi-monthly meetings to track progress and developments. This helps us to continue to work together as an entire community.

This is work that no one agency, body or person can do on their own. The majority of my work as Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention is to build relationships within the community and within all relevant services. I believe that suicide prevention is everybody’s business and we can all play an active role.

For example, I took part in the recent WellComm event in Knocknaheeny, organised by Cork Kerry Community Healthcare with the aim of enabling communities and people to connect to improve their wellbeing. I gave a cooking demonstration because I wanted to promote the idea that cooking together can be a lot of fun, and can also have a huge impact on family life and on our mental wellbeing.

For me, the most important thing at the event at Terence MacSwiney College was that hundreds of members of the public engaged with health services and other agencies and local groups. It was great to see all services coming together to promote positive health, including positive mental health.

I work very closely with many organisations in Cork that do amazing work. For example, the Samaritans have been going strong in Cork for 40 years now, all staffed by volunteers. Pieta House provides very valuable services for the people of Cork. Jigsaw is now up and running successfully in Cork, with a base at Crosses Green.

There are so many organisation working in this sphere in Cork that it’s not possible to name them all, but they also include SHEP (Social Health and Educational Project) ,the ISPCC, Barnardos and the Youth Health service (YHS).

My message is one of hope — we can all make a difference, and sometimes all that it takes is the willingness to work together to achieve a better outcome for all.

The work that’s going on across communities and agencies on Connecting for Life Cork is proof of this. Thankfully, the way that we as a society talk about mental health as a topic has changed dramatically in the last decade.

That said, there is a lot of work still to do and challenges including access to service and reducing stigma still remain. We will continue to work together as a community to achieve the vision of Connecting for Life Cork – a Cork where fewer lives are lost through suicide, and where communities and individuals are empowered to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

To see more on Connecting For Life Cork, see www.connectingforlifecork.ie.


Samaritans on their free confidential 24/7 helpline on 116-123. 

You can email j o @ s a m a r i t a n s . i e or contact Pieta House National Suicide Helpline on 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444

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