Today, Friday, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny will officially launch an official protocol Responding to Suicide— a co-ordinated, integrated response for all agencies involved following death by suicide—which has been formulated by the Mayo Suicide Liaison Project, a dedicated service that supports all those who have been affected by suicide.
The rate of suicide in the Mayo area has been revealed as one of Ireland’s highest for 2012. Suicide figures released by the Central Statistics Office show Mayo had 19.9 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people last year.
In Mayo, a need was identified to have a specifically trained person who would meet with those bereaved by suicide and support them by listening, giving information, and linking them with services. As a result HSE community psychology, health promotion, primary care, the resource officer for suicide prevention, and the Family Centre, Castlebar came together to draw up a proposal. Funding was approved in 2011 for the Mayo Suicide Liaison Project which is based in the Family Resource Centre, Castlebar, and is delivered by Máire Ní Dhomhnaill, an accredited counsellor.
Since 2012 Ms Ní Dhomhnaill has met with a number of families in Mayo to inform them of the range of supports that are available to them including counselling and other appropriate bereavement support services around the county. Initially she worked on this project for two days a week, and since February of this year it has increased to three days a week. This is a free and confidential service and is available in their own home or in a place and at a time of their choosing. There is no time limit following a death by suicide in which to take up this service. An informal risk assessment is made by Ms Ní Dhomhnaill and if necessary she will refer them onwards to an appropriate service.Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser, Ms Ní Dhomhnaill said that prior to this service information about dealing with suicide was very “ad hoc”, however through the establishment of a steering committee and family advisory group for the project it has culminated in this protocol which is being piloted in Mayo. As Ms Ní Dhomhnaill explained a steering committee was set up in July 2012 which has representatives from the coroners office, GPs, gardaí, funeral directors, clergy, HSE, and the director of the family centre along with representatives from voluntary groups. The response protocol was established by the steering committee which ensures that a co-ordinated, integrated, response is available to families in the county. Families are informed about the project by first responders (gardaí, GPs, priests, or funeral directors ) and if the family are accepting that it is a suicide, and are in agreement that they would like to be contacted by the liaison person, this information will be passed on to Ms Ní Dhomhnaill who will contact the family. If a family does not want to meet the liaison person a family information pack will be given to them by the first responder, containing contact details for the project and other relevant information.
“Families who have been affected by suicide are central to what we do,” commented Ms Ní Dhomhnaill, and therefore the family advisory group which comprises eight people who have been bereaved by suicide and who meet regularly with Ms Ní Dhomhnaill have contributed significantly to the development of the service. Another 20 families in Mayo have also provided input to the advisory group.
Two leaflets have been developed by the project—one for families written by members of the family advisory group, and another for first responders and service providers. An information pack for families has also been developed containing essential information. Included in this pack is a booklet put together by the advisory group which is called When Someone You Love Dies By Suicide: This Is What Bereaved Mayo Families Have To Say. A DVD containing the information is also available.
Máire Ní Dhomhnaill hopes that the service and protocol will make it “easier for families”. “It’s about people having choice,” about how people want to deal with suicide, whether it is counselling or just being directed to information. Ms Ní Dhomhnaill says that she works with a lot of families in the county and is hopeful that the project will remain in place for a long time to come as there are many future plans lined up and “we are committed to it”. She said that if this project is successful in Mayo that the HSE may replicate this model around the county.
Speaking about the prevention of suicide Ms Ní Dhomhnaill said: “There is a lot of good work going on locally,” such as the Mayo Suicide Prevention Alliance Group, and later in the year a comprehensive website will be launched which will be a extensive resource for suicide prevention.