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Early intervention urged to help prevent suicide among teenagers

Published 09/09/2016

Suicides in Ireland peaked at 554 in 2011
Suicides in Ireland peaked at 554 in 2011

Health chiefs are being urged to put more focus on preventing suicide among teenagers, with Ireland having the fourth highest rate in Europe among 15 to 19-year-olds.

Marking World Suicide Prevention Day on Saturday, 3,000 of the country's psychologists said early intervention is key to dealing with behavioural and emotional issues.

Since the turn of the century, suicides in Ireland peaked at 554 in 2011 - 458 of whom were men and 96 were women.

Research shows Ireland's suicide rate among young people is high and behind only Lithuania, Estonia and Finland when compared across Europe.

Terri Morrissey, chief executive of the Psychological Society of Ireland, warned that depression and suicidal thoughts among teenagers is a major health problem in Ireland.

"Far too often we hear about such issues when it is already too late and we have to deal with the consequences and aftermath. Intervening at an early stage would have been effective," Ms Morrissey said.

"There is a range of methods and therapies that have been demonstrated to have been effective and which can be used to prevent behavioural, psychological and emotional problems.

"We feel that this should begin at an early age. Well-being and resilience can be promoted through sport, exercise, healthy eating, parental support and other forms of physical, emotional and mental development."

The Psychological Society of Ireland is to host a talk later in the month by c linical psychologist Dr Gary Diamond, professor at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, on how parents can work to reduce some risk factors associated with adolescent depression and suicidal thoughts among teenagers.

Meanwhile, Brian Higgins, chief executive of Pieta House, which counsels people at risk of suicide and self-harm, completed a 10-day 1,000km rickshaw pull around Ireland to call for an end to stigma around the issue.

"Our vision is of a world where suicide, self-harm and stigma have been replaced by hope, self-care and acceptance," he said.

"In the last 10 years we have been brilliant at replacing suicide with hope and bringing people to self-care, but the biggest struggle for us is to replace stigma with acceptance."

Caroline McGuigan, founder of Suicide or Survive, one of the country's leading suicide prevention organisations, said a broad range of services is needed for people struggling with mental health.

"We are taught how to look after our dental and physical health and there are simple things we can learn to do every day that can make all the difference in the world to our mental health," she said.

Ms McGuigan, a practising psychotherapist who survived a suicide attempt, used her own experience to help form support programmes tailored to different circumstances.

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