Jigsaw Galway launching outreach programmes to target youth in rural areas

Ireland has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe among teenagers and young adults — in a week where rural Galway witnessed yet another high profile death by suicide, following the passing of a young GAA player in the county, it is more important than ever that people reach out and avail of services at their disposal. Mental health does not discriminate and anybody’s mother, father, brother, sister, daughter, or son can be affected.

Research by Jigsaw Galway has shown that North West Connemara and South Galway are blackspots for the take-up of its services. Outreach programmes are now being developed in both these areas to provide support to young people. Jigsaw Galway is a free, confidential, support service for those aged between 15 and 25 in Galway city and county. The organisation provides non-judgemental listening and supportive guidance to young people experiencing a difficult or distressing time. Advice and guidance is also provided to anybody who is concerned about a young person’s mental health.

Jigsaw Galway’s centre is open on a full-time basis at the Fairgreen Road in the city but the reasoning behind the outreach programme is to facilitate youngsters in these rural regions where the take-up of the service is poor. The programme in Connemara was launched before Christmas and is now up and running. It is hoped - subject to funding - the South Galway project will get underway later this year. Outreach involves having a member of staff based in Gort and Connemara one day per week. This person will be available to meet with anybody needing help and will also get involved with groups and schools in the locality. The staff member will not operate from an office but will instead be available to meet people in the privacy of their own home or a location decided by them.

A talent show will take place in McCarthy’s pub Kilbeacanty this coming Friday January 9 to raise funds for Jigsaw’s South Galway outreach programme. Tickets cost €10 and the event which features a large number of acts begins at 8pm. Everybody is being urged to go along and enjoy an evening’s entertainment while also supporting an extremely worthy cause.

Kilbeacanty is an area which is all too familiar with the devastation caused by suicide following the death of inter-county GAA star Niall Donoghue in November 2013. The club was the first in the county to appoint a welfare officer in the wake of the tragedy. It is also one of nine GAA clubs in the region which has signed up to the South Galway Mental Health Awareness group. The group is currently in the process of providing ‘Question, Persuade and Refer’ training to representatives from each club. These are three simple steps that anybody can learn to help save a life from suicide. People trained in QPR learn how to recognise the warning signs of suicide, and how to question, persuade and refer someone to help.

Kilbeacanty club member Pat Regan is organising Friday’s fundraiser and mental health is an issue which he feels strongly about. “When I was younger I didn’t know one person who had died by suicide. Now it’s all too common and everybody knows somebody who’s been affected one way or another. I think it should be called death by mental health rather than death by suicide. Mental health is like a cancer and will take you over and suck the life out of you. However similar to a cancer, if it is caught and recognised in time, it can be treated successfully.’’

It is widely known that the annual suicide figures being officially recorded by coroners is much lower than the actual number of deaths which is thought to be in excess of 1,000. Pat Regan believes the Government should be doing more to address the issue. “If as many people as this were dying on roads a national emergency would be declared. The measurement of suicide figures is way off and coroners around the country have admitted that. There is still too much of a stigma around the issue. I find a lot of the older generation still just want it brushed under the carpet. Some of the younger people are more open to talking about it - cautious but more open.‘’

Jigsaw Galway, Fairgreen Road. 091 549 252, www.headstrong.ie/jigsawgalway, email [email protected] and Jigsaw Galway is also on Facebook.

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