Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called on the Government to make investing in mental health and tackling the poverty crisis a priority ahead of next month’s 2019 budget.
The Ireland South MEP was speaking ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day, which takes place on March 10th.
“Suicide continues to be the silent epidemic tearing through Irish society,” she said.
“In 2016 alone just short of 700 people here, 696 to be precise, took their own lives. In a country of just over 6.5 million people that is an epidemic we cannot ignore.
“There isn’t a family in this country that has not been touched in some way by suicide. Luckily we have many wonderful organisations here such as Pieta House, Samaritans and PIPS to name a few, who do wonderful work with meager resources to help people in their darkest hours.
“I would first and foremost say to people, on an individual level, that no matter what you are going through, there is always someone you can talk to and always light at the end of the tunnel, even if it may not seem like it.
“Family and friends are crucial in detecting and preventing suicide and self harm, and something as simple as asking a friend how they are could make a difference.
“And there are of course excellent and worthy campaigns such as World Suicide Prevention Day, Darkness Into Light and the Empty Chair Campaign, all of which do phenomenal work raising awareness and money for vital services.
“However, while all these efforts are admirable and essential, if we are to get on top of the suicide problem in Ireland what we need is national policy and investment.
“There are a myriad of reasons why people resort to taking their own lives but the fact cannot be ignored that increasingly it is out of despair as people see no way out of the poverty trap.
“The dual blows of a poverty crisis coupled with inadequate mental health services trap people in a cycle of despair from which it can seem there is no escape.
“This Government will not even acknowledge that a poverty crisis exists here, let alone do anything to tackle it.
“These issues can not be solved independently of each other. Budget 2019 must focus on issues of rent control, housing, a living wage, the working poor and the cost of living, and a much greater emphasis must be put on mental health care and preventative services.
“Suicide is an act of despair. Next month we have an opportunity to give people a little hope.”
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