Suicide Prevention – Topical Issue Debate

Check against delivery

Speech by Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government  Mr Phil Hogan, T.D

I would like to thank the Deputy for raising this issue for discussion today.  I welcome the National Action to Address Child Intentional Injury 2014 Report of the European Child Safety Alliance which was published in late March. The Report which examines the policy measures in place to address intentional injury to children in over 25 Member States is currently being considered in the Department of Health.

In Ireland, Government policy on deliberate self-harm and suicide prevention is guided by our national strategy Reach Out which makes a number of recommendations in relation to fast track referrals to community-based mental health services, effective response to deliberate self-harm, training, reducing stigma and promoting positive mental health, and research.  Reach Out recognises the youth sector as a high risk group and sets out a number of specific actions.  Dealing with the current high levels of suicide and deliberate self-harm is a priority for this Government.

The HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) has primary responsibility for the implementation of Reach Out.  Consequently, the NOSP has developed a range of initiatives aimed specifically at supporting young people who are suicidal and also supporting their peers in recognising and responding appropriately to signs of emotional distress and suicidal thoughts.

A wide range of awareness and training programmes are available in the area of mental health promotion and suicide prevention.  A number of media awareness campaigns which focused specifically on young people have been run in recent years and Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention in post-primary schools have also been developed.

Since 2012, this Government has provided €90 million and some 1,100 additional posts primarily to develop Community Mental Health Teams and Suicide Prevention resources.   230 of these posts were allocated to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Teams and all posts are targeted to be in place by end of June 2014.  Young people, children and their families have access to a range of mental health services within CAMHS Teams.

In addition, 37 new clinical nurse specialist posts have been created to provide additional clinical support to persons presenting with self-harm in Emergency Departments.

In 2014, the Department of Health and the HSE have committed to developing a new strategic framework for suicide prevention, building on the comprehensive work delivered under the current Reach Out strategy.  The framework will present the key priorities to be addressed in the years 2015 – 2018.

The aim of the new strategy will be to support population health approaches and interventions that will assist in reducing the loss of life through suicide.  The new framework, which is expected to be published in late 2014, will build upon and learn from the experience of implementing Reach Out, which continues to be relevant.  The recommendations from the National Action to Address Child Intentional Injury 2014 Report will also be considered in the context of the development of the new framework.

The findings of this Report are a matter of concern and will be considered by a Research Advisory Group recently established as part of the development of the new framework on suicide prevention.