“Self-harm and substance abuse on increase here” - Counsellor

A man who is working at the coalface in dealing with addiction, providing counselling to many vulnerable people has told this newspaper that “these problems are to be found in every parish and street corner in the county and are in fact showing an increase.

Fr. James Sweeny told the Donegal Democrat, “Initially I set up Tabor House in Donegal Town to deal with these problems in 2001 - regrettably the problem is just getting worse.

“Here in the centre we have a dedicated group of counsellors who are working practically 24/7 in helping people deal with their problems.

“Suicide and self harm has become all to prevalent in society today - how often do we see deaths described as ‘tragic circumstances’ in the media?

“For years it was commonly associated with young men in their early twenties - unfortunately the loop has widened and we are seeing increasing numberS of women and older men with serious problems.

“The recession is a big factor - people are worried - fears of losing their jobs, their houses and some resort to drink and drugs in the hope that they can ease the pain. Unfortunately they are only making it worse.

“Drugs - prescribed or illegal or any other substance will not solve the problem - they will only smother it and often with tragic consequences.

“As a community we cannot shy away from the problem - it is a factor that can effect every family in the county.

“Suicide is a reality and as a community we must work together to combat it - it is an illness like a toothache, a broken leg or whatever and we can help.

“There is no point in trying to sweep it under the carpet - there is no stigma in being ill.

“Let’s all work together to combat this scourge which devastates families and communities - a listening ear can mean so much.

“We must take collective responsibility - there is no point in casting the blame on the doctors, the Gardai, the HSE, family - we all have to look after each other just like we did in earlier years.”

Fr James Sweeney, based in Ardaghey, is a native of Mullinasole, Laghey, and this week celebrated the silver jubille of his ordination. He is profiled in our Thursday Interview on page 16.