Last week Fianna Fáil published a new policy document on suicide prevention, entitled Actions Speak Louder than Words: A Structural Approach to a Societal Issue.
The policy, which has been written by local Seanad Spokesperson on Health, Senator Marc Mac Sharry, sets out a number of ambitious reforms that should be undertaken to radically change the approach of the government and health service to mental health issues and aims to reduce the incidence of suicide in Ireland by 30% over 10 years.
Senator Mac Sharry said the figures on suicide show that “this is a public health emergency.” He added, “It is clear that the approach that has been taken to date in tackling suicide is not working.’’
The plan proposes a radical reform of the structure of the NOSP. Under this plan it would become independent of the HSE with special status and access in the Department of Health, a ring-fenced budget, performance targets, flexibility in recruitment of experts, and the authority to influence government policy in key departments including Education, Justice, Finance and Social Welfare as well as Health.
Actions Speak Louder than Words contains the objective of urgently creating a new national policy on suicide prevention with specific targets and deadlines to reduce suicide by 30% within ten years.
Among the proposals contained in the plan are an NOSP 24 hour hotline, resource all GPs to provide comprehensive help to individuals at risk of dying by suicide, review the prescription of antidepressant medication monthly and establish out-of-hours emergency social worker teams.
The plan also seeks to back Guidance Counselling in Secondary Schools, the provision of Guidance Counselling to Primary School, 7.5% Levy on Sale of all alcohol off-sales and to implore all forms of media to take a more responsible role in the coverage of suicide.
The focus on suicide prevention in Leitrim has been immense following a large number of suicides in the county and the high profile case of 15 year old Ciara Pugsely last September. At the time it had been noted that Ciara was being bullied by anonymous users on the social media site Ask.fm. Six months later, Ciara’s profile on Ask.fm is still available to the public. The International Cyber Threat Force has called for the profile to be removed immediately.