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Suicide continues to be the biggest killer of young people in Ireland, but also affects all ages and demographics in every community. Three times more people die by suicide than die on our roads, yet over ten times more is spent on road safety than on suicide prevention. The inexcusable reality for those in crisis is that 90% of the services required to deal with suicide in Ireland are not there.
Suicide is indiscriminate and many of you reading this piece can undoubtedly call to mind someone you know who has been bereaved through suicide. Worse still, you may have suffered the agonising loss of a beloved family member or friend and are all too familiar with the utter desolation that suicide leaves in its wake.
3TS (Turn the Tide of Suicide) is a suicide prevention charity which has long been calling for a co-ordinated approach to suicide prevention and believes that only a Suicide Prevention Authority similar in structure to the Road Safety Authority in Ireland can deliver an effective solution.
I have worked in small firms for my entire career – Arthur P. McClean in Grafton Street, Vivian C. Matthews in Dundrum, James O’Brien & Co in Nenagh and Michael Fitzsimons in Dublin - before eventually setting up my own practice in 1981, Noel Smyth & Partners. Through my work as chairman of the 3Ts charity and also my experience as a lawyer, I know that many lawyers will meet clients who are suicidal themselves or have suffered loss as a direct result of suicide. In addition, many lawyers will know colleagues who have taken their own life or have been suicidal.
I believe that we can all do something meaningful for suicide prevention within the legal community and beyond. At 3Ts we believe that a dedicated Suicide Prevention Authority can make a real change. We have worked closely with an expert SC in drafting up the requisite legislation to help make this change, our Draft Suicide Authority Bill. We believe a Suicide Authority could drive a cultural shift around mental health and suicide through education and public information, regulation & licensing, together with infrastructural development.
This Authority would also have its own ring-fenced funds incapable of being diverted and would address the “patch work nature” of the services that currently exist for those seeking help with suicide and mental illness. This structure will prevent suicides.
The sad fact is that we are still on average losing 2 people per day through suicide yet the information and a host of other issues on the collation and collection of related data remains opaque.
We are unlikely to change attitudes and save lives unless and until we recognise this problem as one which will continue to worsen with our expanding population. Greater numbers of our young people are currently exposed to circumstances and influences without the necessary care and support that we are capable of giving them.
A copy of the draft Bill is available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
Noel Smyth is a chairman of 3Ts
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