A number of events across the counties of the South East on World Suicide Prevention Day on Friday last marked the occasion with a particular emphasis on Traveller Mental Health.
The various activities in counties Waterford, Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary and Wexford were supported by HSE/South East Community Healthcare (SECH).
A specially pre-recorded event, featuring singers, musicians, poets and actors in the Traveller community (organised by Exchange House as part of the National Traveller Together Preventing Suicide Campaign) was shared on Facebook in Dungarvan and Waterford, with families encouraged to “shine a light” to mark the day.
One of the highlights of activities marking World Suicide Prevention Day in Co. Wexford was the planting of a memorial tree at Drumgoold, Enniscorthy. In an initiative sponsored by the Ferns Diocesan Youth Service (FDYS) and supported by HSE/South East Community Healthcare, Travellers in the local community wrote names of lost loved ones on yellow ribbons and tied them to the tree. Later in the evening, a priest came to bless the tree as part of a small, socially distant outdoor Mass and the tree was surrounded by lights.
Speaking about the range of events held by the HSE, including those specific to the Traveller community in the South East, Tracy Nugent (HSE/South East Community Healthcare Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention) said: “Suicide prevention is everyone’s concern. Looking after our mental health is a cornerstone for improving the health of our people. It is as important as physical health. Throughout the health services, we have structures in place to try to ensure that people get the right type of help and we continually strive to establish a better understanding of suicidal behaviour and to support communities to prevent and respond to issues associated with suicidal behaviour.
“If you, a member of your family or someone you know is in distress or needs someone to talk to, help, support and advice are available. In the first instance contact your GP, if it is late in the evening or at the weekend call CAREDOC on (0818) 300 365. If you or someone is in immediate danger go to the Emergency Department of your nearest hospital or call the Emergency Services on 999 or 112.”
Mary Byrne (Traveller Mental Health Co-ordinator, HSE/South East Community Healthcare) said: “Latest figures show that suicide accounts for 11% of all Traveller deaths and that the suicide rate is seven times the national average for Traveller men and six times the national average for Traveller women. Every death by suicide is a tragic and devastating event that impacts on the lives of so many people. We are all part of communities which link us to friends, family, colleagues and/or neighbours. A sense of community is very important for maintaining our mental health and helps foster a supportive network for everyone, especially for those going through tough times. “