Speech for Minister Moloney for Official Opening of Console House, Wexford
I am delighted to be here today to officially open Console House Wexford and I wish to thank Paul Kelly and Denis O’Connor for the warm welcome and the invitation to launch this most worthwhile service.
The Office here has been operating since April and I congratulate all those involved in getting it off the ground.
Today, I would particularly like to acknowledge the tremendous work being done by Console since its establishment in 2002, in providing help and support to people who have been bereaved through suicide. Your services, which include a national free phone helpline, individual, couple and family support services as well as a community outreach service provides a lifeline to individuals and families in crisis situations.
The sad fact is that there has not been a community in Ireland that has not been affected by the trauma and despair that surrounds suicide. The loss of a friend or family member by suicide is a traumatic experience which affects everybody in the community. No two people experience the journey in the same way, even those who are grieving the same loss. Each person has to make their own journey. Learning to cope with a tragic loss can be a long and very difficult process.
The encouragement and support provided by Console for those who suffer the intense trauma of bereavement through the suicide of a loved one is of immense importance. Providing hope to those who have been bereaved as a result of suicide is an invaluable gift. 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. I recently launched the ‘See Change’ – National Stigma Reduction Campaign. The main aim of the ‘See Change’ campaign is to reduce the stigma people feel and to encourage them to seek help. It is also about challenging people’s beliefs about mental illness and to encourage them to be more open in their attitudes and behaviour. It will also encourage people to support a friend or loved one who is experiencing a mental health problem.
In these times of financial difficulties it is essential that all agencies and voluntary groups 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.
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.
We saw a gradual decline in the suicide numbers in recent years but worryingly there has been a dramatic rise in suicides from 424 in 2008 to 527 in 2009. This 24% increase in suicide rates is a matter of concern to me and to the Government and we must, I believe, redouble our efforts to reduce the incidence of suicide and make every effort to reach out to people in despair.
With this increase in the number of deaths by suicide, it is timely that, in September, the Government approved €1m in funding under the Dormant Accounts Fund for a programme of suicide prevention measures. The initiatives being funded will help communities to develop integrated local action plans for suicide prevention and will enhance the ability of communities to prevent suicidal behaviour at all levels of risk.
Console provides a comforting service to members of the community at times when they are most vulnerable. This is an invaluable resource and I am confident that your work will continue to have a positive impact and thus enhance the well-being and quality of life for many people.
I would again like to commend and thank all of you for providing such a valuable and worthwhile service. I am delighted to now formally open Console House, Wexford.