Fianna Fáil’s Seanad spokesperson on Health Marc Mac Sharry will move the Suicide Prevention & Mental Health Bill 2014 in the Seanad this Wednesday. The Bill if enacted will provide sustainable funding for the implementation of a range of measures to reduce suicide in Ireland. The Bill is broadly based on Senator Mac Sharry’s policy document “Actions Speak Louder Than Words”, which was published last year.
Senator Mac Sharry commented, “Suicide remains the nation’s silent crisis and despite the best efforts of the many organisations, volunteers & professionals working in the area of suicide prevention the statistics sadly underline the scale of this problem. The loss of life through suicide, on an annual basis, represents the equivalent of the loss of the population of an entire village. Mental well-being and suicide prevention policy initiatives have always been starved of the resources necessary to have a penetrative impact.
“This is a battle we can win! The Suicide Prevention & Mental Health Fund Bill 2014 will, if enacted, provide the necessary resources to reduce loss of life through suicide by 30% in 10 years. It will also facilitate the accelerated role out of the measures contained in “A Vision for Change” as supported by both former and current Government policy.
“Current initiatives fall well short of what is required. The mental health budget is the first to be raided when health shortfalls are being addressed. “A Vision For Change” was announced in 2006 and since then there has been some, but not nearly enough progress. A fresh approach must be taken in tackling what is in essence a national emergency. It is essential that we establish the correct structures with adequate resources to peel back the blindfold on the phenomena of loss of life through suicide.
“The Bill provides for a Suicide Prevention & Mental Health Fund Levy on all alcohol sold in supermarkets and off-licences. This would see all the money collected from the levy ring fenced for suicide prevention, mental health and addiction services. If supported it has the potential to raise up to €200m a year”.
This money can be spent on creating a new national policy with targets as outlined in my “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” document. These include:
- Reform and Restructure the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) as an independent Office with special status, a ring-fenced budget, performance targets and an independent employment system, with clear interdepartmental input at government and secretary general level.
- Enhance the size and role of the NOSP to undertake matters such as the development of a new national strategy and the creation of a national 24 hour helpline.
- Increase the number of Resource Officers for Suicide Prevention, enhance their role, and link them directly to the NOSP.
- Establish out-of-hours emergency social worker teams across all of Ireland.
- Reverse the Government’s decision to abolish dedicated Guidance Counsellor time allocations for Secondary Schools.
- Introduce Guidance Counsellors for Primary Schools.
- Phase out advertising and sponsorship of events by alcohol brands that may be deemed to specifically target young audiences.
- Consider alcohol and substance abuse as a form of self-harm, and to be treated accordingly.
- Introduce SPHE into the Senior-Cycle in Secondary Schools.
- Increase the funding to projects for the delivery of the NSOP new national strategy aimed at reducing the rates of suicide in all sections of society, especially the high risk areas such as middle-aged men and young adults.
- Compel banks to provide for professional counselling to patrons in heavy mortgage arrears, business or personal debt at risk of or following foreclosure.
- Implore all forms of media to take a more responsible role in the coverage of suicide, adhering to media guidelines on the subject.
The Bill will be debated during Fianna Fáil’s Private Members Business in the Seanad this Wednesday.
Senator Mac Sharry concluded “Political rhetoric must be replaced with tangible action and real time deliverables. If enacted, this Bill will make a real difference. I’m calling on all Senators to support this important legislation and allow it progress to the next stage”.