Minister Moloney’s Speaking Notes at the Donore Avenue Community Action on Suicide Group’s Launch of Second Annual Suicide Prevention Week

Thank: Alicia Gayson for the invitation to launch Community Action on Suicide’s second Annual Suicide Prevention Week.

The presentations and discussions today will give you an increased awareness of the issue of self injury.

As Minister for Disability and Mental Health, I welcome initiatives such as this which are designed to heighten awareness and increase understanding of mental health issues. I am particularly supportive of initiatives that encourage openness, discussion and help seeking.

A worrying trend has developed in recent years with the number of deliberate self-injury presentations reported to Hospital Emergency Departments increasing. The figures for 2009 show that the rate of hospital treated self harm was 5% higher than in 2008 and that this is the third successive increase in the national rate of hospital treated deliberate self harm. Of particular concern is the fact that the male rate of deliberate self harm is 10% higher than in 2008.

International studies have found that self injury to be one of the most significant risk factors associated with suicide – those who engage in self harm are twenty times more likely to eventually die by suicide. Studies have shown that at least one third of all suicides have a history of self-injury.

Today, I would particularly like to acknowledge the tremendous work being done throughout the country on suicide prevention by the HSE and many community and voluntary organisations.

With the recorded increase in suicide numbers here in Ireland in 2009, it is important that we work together in the fight against suicide. Too many lives are lost and the effect on families, friends, colleagues and communities can be overwhelming.

I accept that more has to be done in our quest to tackle suicide and I believe that this can only be done by agencies and stakeholders adopting a collaborative approach.

All agencies must work more closely together and with the HSE to maximise their effectiveness. By harnessing our resources and our commitment, we can make a difference and reduce the devastating effects suicide has on individuals and on communities.

One of my main priorities for 2010 is to eliminate social exclusion, stigmatisation and discrimination of the mentally ill. For too long mental health has been a taboo subject and discussions on it were strictly off limits. As a result, many mental health problems were left unacknowledged, unrecognised and untreated. But the reality is that mental illness is a common problem and is not, and never has been, a marginal issue.

Engaging with people in distress and encouraging them to seek help is vital. The stigma that is often associated with mental health can deter people from seeking help. We are working to overcome this stigma and to change attitudes and behaviour with the ‘See Change’ National Stigma Reduction Campaign, which I launced earlier this year. To date 38 organisations have signed up as ‘See Change’ Partners. Together we will work to deliver our key messages: Mental health problems can affect anyone at any time during their lives. People with mental health problems can and do recover. Every person – whether you have been personally touched by mental health problems or not – has the power to help stop the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health problems.

Finally, I would like to congratulate everyone involved with today’s event and wish you every success in your future endeavours.

Thank you.