Seek help if suicidal, urges founder of Tuam crisis centre

“Do not be afraid to seek help if you feel suicidal” is the message from the founder of Pieta House, the suicide and self-harm crisis centre in Tuam.

Joan Freeman’s appeal comes ahead of Suicide Awareness Week which begins on September 8.

The local centre which serves Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, is based at Bishop Street and will open its doors to the public from 2pm to 4pm on Saturday September 6. People can tour the building, have a cup of tea, meet some of the therapists and ask question about the service.

“With Suicide Awareness Week coming up we’re excited to welcome the local community into our centres, bring them beyond the hall door and help them learn more about the free service we provide,” said Ms Freeman, the CEO of Pieta House. It offers a free one-to-one therapeutic service to people experiencing suicidal thoughts or engaging in self-harm. A doctor’s referral is not required.

“We want to show people that Pieta House is an accessible, comforting and compassionate place where everyone is treated with respect. Seeking help is not something to be afraid of.”

The charity will focus on the signs of suicide during the awareness week. It will run an educational campaign to help people recognise these telltale indications and offer advice on what to do if a loved one is in crisis.

Speaking earlier this year at the official opening of Pieta House West - one of four new centres opened by the organisation within the past year - Ms Freeman, a psychologist, accused the Government of ignoring Ireland’s suicide crisis.

“At Pieta House, we are dealing with almost 60 new cases every week and each week another 10 people are dying by suicide. If the Government gave suicide the same attention and resources it gives to death on our roads, imagine the difference this would make to communities around Ireland.”

She described the subject of suicide as a “warm blanket used by politicians during the cold days of campaigning, only to be shrugged off when elected”.

Pieta House West is the result of an extensive two-year fundraising campaign across Galway, Roscommon and Mayo which raised in excess of €350,000.

The main driving force behind it was John Concannon, the Kilconly born founder of JFC Manufacturing in Tuam. He has factories in Ireland, the UK, Poland and South Africa. He was inspired by a visit to Pieta House in Lucan while filming RTÉ’s The Secret Millionaire. He went on to lead an extensive fundraising drive with fellow Tuam men Michael Ryder and John Joyce, and with the support of a dedicated fundraising committee.

“The opening of Pieta House West is the manifestation of what communities can achieve when they come together and work towards a common goal,” he said. “This huge effort really shows the commitment of a community at work in the three counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. This centre will belong to the local people of the west of Ireland and they’ve put their money on the line to make it happen. There’s no class distinction with suicide and the doors of the Tuam Pieta House centre will be open to everyone.”

Pieta House’s aim is to have a centre within 100km of everyone in Ireland. It provides a professional, face-to-face, free therapeutic service for people in the acute stages of distress. Its primary aim is to reduce suicide by helping people get through that critical phase when suicide becomes a plan rather than just an idea.

The demand for Pieta House’s service continues to grow. As 90 per cent of the organisation’s money comes from public donations, fundraising is vital.

Pieta House has four Dublin centres in Lucan, Finglas, Ballyfermot and Tallaght, as well as facilities in Limerick, Cork, Roscrea, Castleisland and Tuam (Telephone (093 ) 25586 or log on to www.pieta.ie ).

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