A top suicide counsellor has said there has been a dramatic increase in suicide crisis calls and people seeking help to her organisation over the last three months.
Mary McTernan a founding member of S.T.O.P (Suicide, Teach, Organise, Prevent) lost her own son to suicide and in the aftermath of two similiar tragedies in her immediate vicinity, the three families came together to highlight the whole issue of suicide, dispel the stigma and put in place something for the bereaved.
In an in-depth interview with the Donegal Democrat Mary talks about her own personal tragedy and states that their own records indicate that Donegal has a growing problem with mental illness and people suffering from depression, many with suicidal thoughts.
Mary said: “Over the last three months we have noticed a dramatic increase in crisis call from Donegal and our records would indicate that there is a problem in the county, it would rate as one of the highest areas in the country by our figures.
“We are all aware that there have been some tragic incidents in the county over the last year and there is a danger that unless the government come up with some sort of strategic plan we could be looking at many more funerals in this county.”
“These calls are not from attention seekers, they are genuine cries for help. They come from friends or relatives who are concerned about the well being of a close friend or relative, they come from people who are consumed by suicidal thoughts and they come from people who have been affected by suicide.
“These have to be dealt with straight away, they need direct intervention. There is little point in saying that ‘We’ll call you back tomorrow.’ - tomorrow can often be too late,” she added.
“With the medical services so stretched we are now even getting calls from GPs in the county asking could they refer some patients on to us.
“Suicide is not usually about just one thing, it is a combination of factors.
“In Donegal at the moment there is probably the highest unemployment rate in the country. Many people are living in despair, they simply have little hope.
“There are others who were used to a high standard of living in the boom years and now that has all collapsed around them. Others may have been sexually abused, have relationship problems or are engaged in substance abuse.
“They simply just cannot cope and when they are in such a vulnerable state of mind, it can take very little to trigger off a tragic situation.
“To put things in perspective - when we started in 2005 we had two counsellors, we now have 14 - I think that speaks for itself.
“What people must realise is that there is a tremendous success rate in dealing with depression and mental illness - there is light at the end of the tunnel but we must get people to talk about it.
“As a society we must work together to get rid of the stigma; we must get the message clearly across that it is OK to be ill whether it is physically or mentally and it is okay to talk about it.”
SEE TODAY’S DONEGAL DEMOCRAT FOR FULL INTERVIEW WITH MARY MCTERNAN