Dr. John Connolly, founder of the Irish Association for Suicidology, explained that international research had shown that with every one per cent increase in unemployment there is a 0.8 to 1 per cent increase in suicide rates.
Speaking at the launch of a major fund raising event for suicide awareness - the Blacksod Point Challenge in Erris (organised by Kilmore Triathlon Club) - Dr. Connolly explained recession brings with it an increase in psychiatric problems.
The latter includes major depression, anxiety, an increase in alcohol and substance misuse, family problems and break up, poverty, dislocation and marginalisation.
“All of these are risk factors for suicide,” Dr. Connolly told an audience in Cox’s Bar, Castlebar, which included the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, his wife, Fionnuala, and the Leas Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Councillor Patsy O’Brien.
“In addition,” he continued, “people who are already on the margins of society are the most vulnerable to the effects of recession.”
Dr. Connolly stressed that the effects of recession can be ameliorated by government action to support statutory and voluntary bodies in the promotion of positive mental health and suicide awareness and prevention.
Sadly, however, there had been a great cut back in the level of staffing in the psychiatric and allied services in recent years where people are most vulnerable.
It was important, Dr. Connolly stated, to ensure adequate levels of social welfare support, job creation schemes and retraining schemes and the government must address all these issues adequately.
Underlining the extent of the present suicide ‘epidemic’, the Taoiseach said that some weeks ago, in a mortuary not far from Castlebar, six young men, all victims of suicide, were lying side by side.
Deputy Kenny said drink was a factor in the suicide rate pointing out that every night in Irish hospitals 2,000 beds were taken up by people ‘overloaded with alcohol’.
The Blacksod Point Challenge is being organised by two Castlebar friends, John Maughan and Gerry Casey.
All funds raised will be handed over to the Irish Association of Suicidology.
The event, on September 22, will combine an Atlantic swim, a fast bike course and a run course that combines grass, sand and tarred surfaces amid spectacular scenery.
Teams of three are being invited to run, cycle and swim the event as part of a relay team.
Speaking at the launch, John Maughan said the idea arose from a chance conversation Nhe had some weeks ago with Gerry Casey, a triathlete, about ‘lost friends’.
Gerry Casey, meanwhile, thanked everybody for their support especially Elver’s Sports and Paul Doyle of Cox’s Bar.
He continued: “We have all been touched by suicide in one form or another…we buried a good friend of mine not long ago.”
Anyone interested in participating in the triathlon should contact either John Maughan on (087) 2901327 or Gerry Casey on (087) 2460767.