Left behind by the economic recovery

Rachel Wright, Policy & Communications Manager for Samaritans in Ireland

Suicide is a complex issue and we can never really know the reasons why someone ends their life.

We do know that there are a range of psychological, social, cultural and economic factors which increase an individual’s level of risk. The report released today, Dying from Inequality provides overwhelming evidence of a strong link between socioeconomic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour.

Samaritans volunteers in the Republic of Ireland’s 12 branches find financial worries, unemployment or the fear of unemployment, and stress are concerns for many. Alongside these issues, many of the people who contact us feel isolated from the rest of society and from the economic recovery which they hear so much about, but are not experiencing.

Since the recession in Ireland in 2008, we have experienced economic change which has been felt in all communities across the country. The impact of that economic uncertainty is still being felt by many, with suicide rates in most deprived areas found to be twice the rate found in the least deprived.

As well as an economic recovery, we need to foster a culture where people can access the support they need and know when to ask for help - whether that is emotional support or help to get back to work or out of debt without feeling judged. Dying from Inequality’s research highlights the importance of support which is non-stigmatising and person-centred.

Samaritans has been providing non-judgemental support to people in crisis for over 60 years. In recent years, we have been working to make it easier for people experiencing disadvantage to reach out to us. Our helpline became free to call in the Republic of Ireland in 2014 and since then we have seen a 60 per cent increase in calls. We believe that removing the barrier of paying for calls has made it easier for people experiencing disadvantage to reach out to us.

We have been working with communities affected by socioeconomic disadvantage to develop responses to suicide and encourage help-seeking. Examples of this are our peer scheme with the MOJO project where men are trained to support their peers in the community and our work with people in the Travelling community. However, while this work is valuable, it is the Dying from Inequality report that shows us that we need to work together to tackle suicide.

Suicide prevention is everyone’s business and action is needed across a range of Government departments, state agencies, private employers and community supports. This is the approach taken in the Connecting for Life - the national suicide reduction strategy in the Republic of Ireland. In the coming months, we will be working with stakeholders to share the findings of the research and develop practical responses to the issues identified.