Dáil Éireann - Volume 625 - 10 October, 2006
Written Answers. - Suicide Incidence.
Mr. O’Connor Mr. O’Connor
Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the actions which are being put in place to ensure the accurate monitoring of the target to reduce the suicide rate by 20% by 2016, as highlighted in the Report of the Joint Committee on Health and Children into the High Levels of Suicide in Irish Society; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31963/06]
Mr. O’Connor Mr. O’Connor
Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that arrangements have been made to take action in respect of a number of recommendations in the recently published Report of the Joint Committee on Health and Children into the High Levels of Suicide in Irish Society; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of recommendations were planned for immediate implementation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31964/06]
Mr. O’Connor Mr. O’Connor
Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in respect of the recently published Report of the Joint Committee on Health and Children into the High Levels of Suicide in Irish Society, she has received commitments by her Department, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Office of Public Works, that they will all work in partnership to reduce the high levels of suicide here; and the way in which this partnership is being facilitated. [31965/06]
Mr. O’Connor Mr. O’Connor
Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has considered the important recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Health and Children on the high levels of suicide in Irish society; if her attention has been drawn to the need for a health promotion programme aimed at young people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31966/06]
Mr. T. O’Malley Mr. T. O’Malley
Mr. T. O’Malley: I propose to take Questions Nos. 338 to 341, inclusive, together.
I wish to assure the Deputy that the Government is fully committed to the implementation of suicide prevention initiatives and the further development of our mental health services in order to prevent, and reduce further tragic loss of life.
 In September 2005, Reach Out — a National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, 2005-2014 was launched. This Strategy builds on the work of the National Task Force on Suicide (1998) and takes account of the efforts and initiatives developed by the former health boards in recent years. During the two years developing the strategy, wide ranging consultation took place throughout the country to draw on the experience, perspectives and ideas of the key stakeholders and interested parties. This consultation process, combined with continuous monitoring of evidence and best practice, allowed the project team to take both an evidence-based and pragmatic approach in prioritising actions to be undertaken by the various agencies and groups in order to effect real change over the next 5 to 10 years.
Consideration was given to the setting of an overall target for the reduction of our national suicide rate as an outcome measure of this strategy. At this stage, it has been decided that a specific target will not be set for the following two reasons:
The priority is to establish the accuracy of suicide mortality in Ireland.
Due to the range and inter-play of factors that influence the suicide rate, a direct cause and effect relationship between prevention programmes and a change in the overall population rates is virtually impossible to establish.
Nevertheless, there are undoubted advantages to setting targets for an overall reduction, not least the fact that it focuses the attention of those working at all levels of suicide prevention. An overall target for the reduction of suicide rates will be set by the Government, on the advice of the Minister for Health and Children, when suicide rates have been accurately determined.
Reach Out recommends a combined public health and high risk approach. This approach to suicide prevention is also that advocated by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and is in keeping with the European Action Plan for Mental Health which was signed and endorsed on behalf of ministers of health of the 52 member states of the European Region of the World Health Organisation at the Ministerial Conference on Mental Health in Helsinki, Finland in January 2005.
The approach to the national strategy is a straightforward one. Four levels of action comprise the main body of the strategy. These are categorised as:
General population approach;
Responding to Suicide; and
Information and research.
 At each level, Action Areas have been identified (26 in total) and specific points of action have been identified to be implemented in three phases over the coming years (an average of 3 to 4 actions per area).
Most of the Actions identified in Reach Out are consistent with the recommendations in the Report of the Joint Committee on Health and Children into the High Levels of Suicide in Irish Society. The remaining recommendations now require consideration by the National Office for Suicide Prevention and the Health Service Executive.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is taking a lead role in overseeing the implementation of Reach Out, in partnership with those statutory and voluntary organisations that have a key role to play in making the actions happen. The HSE established the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) to oversee the implementation of the strategy and NOSP has made contacts with agencies from the relevant sectors in relation to progressing the implementation. At Government level, an Interdepartmental Committee will be established with representatives of relevant Government Departments to advise on and provide support in overcoming any barriers encountered in implementing the strategy.
In 2006, an additional €1.2 million has been allocated to the Health Service Executive specifically for suicide prevention initiatives. The following 12 point plan outlines Actions in Reach Out which the 2006 funding is being used to:
prepare for the launch of a national mental well being campaign in conjunction with non-governmental organisations;
ensure full coverage in hospital A&E departments of appropriate services to respond to presentations of deliberate self harm;
deliver agreed training programmes as set out in Reach Out;
support the development of bereavement services by funding Console, a national voluntary organisation;
action the outcome of research undertaken by the National Suicide Research Foundation into appropriate methods of data collection relating to suicides;
complete research into the link between institutional abuse and suicide;
pilot a Primary Care/Deliberate Self Harm Service;
work with the media to improve reporting of suicide and deliberate self harm;
agree a national programme of appropriate research on suicide prevention in Ireland;
 develop methods of reaching, in particular, young people through the medium of ICT, e.g. email, texting, messaging;
establish a national forum of key stakeholders and to brief on current activities and research on suicide prevention; and
commission research into the link between Traveller health and suicide.
The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy A Vision for Change, which was launched in January 2006, highlights the importance of mental health promotion in the prevention of mental health problems through the development of coping and problem-solving skills, help-seeking and resilience. It also recommends that mental health promotion should be available for all age groups, to enhance the protective factors and decrease risk factors for developing mental health problems. The recommendations in the Report have been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of the mental health services.
The Health Service Executive now has responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services, including health promotion programme development and implementation and will be guided by national policy in the development of mental health promotion programmes.
Dáil Éireann 625 Written Answers. Suicide Incidence.