In the main suicide is a political issue that has stayed underneath most radar screens for a long time. The stigma associated with it has contributed greatly to the minimising of this silent tragedy in the public consciousness. The problem being that when the subject does become an urgent issue, when a person talks about suicidal feelings/intent, the person themselves may not know what to do and those around her/him may not know what to do. Ignorance breeds stigma, stigma and prejudice ensures ignorance.
Last year 444 people committed suicide, that's more than died on the roads last year, a third more. The CSO has 39 murders for last year, can you imagine the outcry if another zero was added onto that figure and instead of dozens of murders there were hundreds what the reaction would be? There's a strong sense of purpose to the campaign to prevent accidents and in particular road deaths. When the figures go up hard questions are asked and the effort is made to get the public to slow down, not drink and drive and obey the rules of the road. Inevitably there will be some accidents and some fatalities and it's very likely the same for suicides, some just won't be preventable. But it doesn't stop the safety drive for cars so why should it stop suicide prevention efforts.
Suicide and mental health difficulties aren't the preserve of any one sector of society and it is tragic to hear the questions as to why? after a person has committed suicide. Maybe if we asked that question and try to answer it now, not so many people will end up asking that question having lost someone close to suicide. Things have gotten worse in recent years and our response as a society has been poor with the exceptions of some shining lights. Some are willing to face up to the issue of suicide and the poor shape of the mental health services and great respect is due to them. And if modern Ireland is to build a real quality of life, this is an area where a massive change in urgency is needed.