Ireland’s youth suicide rate is the highest in Europe

In a moving and poignant open letter to the minister, Sophie Geaney, a sixth-year pupil from Cork, contrasts the frenetic campaign on water charges with the lack of attention given to the country’s appalling suicide rates.

Ireland’s youth suicide rate is the highest in Europe and the leading cause of death of young people here.

The Leaving Cert pupil also criticises the decision by the Department of Health and the HSE to divert €12m of the €35m ring-fenced for mental health in the last budget to other areas in health.

Sophie, from Gurranabraher, Cork City, writes that two people she knew personally took their own lives — one a man in his 50s and another a 17-year-old girl.

Sophie describes the teenager as “the most beautiful and bubbly girl I have ever met”.

“More than ever, we need the Government to make a stand on mental health and invest more in it; but instead they are taking funding away,” she said.

“It’s not enough to have a mental health talk in school once a year. There should be a class every week where teenagers learn that it’s OK not to be OK, that it’s not weak to speak.

“People need to learn to voice what is going on in their heads. It needs to be a natural instinct to reach out; to say there is something wrong, I need help. We need these classes from first year and not just in fifth and sixth year.”

Sophie said that both suicides “came as a bolt from the blue” and that “nobody was aware that either had been suffering any kind of mental health problem”.

The Samaritans released figures this week that showed the suicide rate among women increased 14.7% between 2013 and 2014, while the rate for men fell by 6.4%.

However, men in Ireland are still four times more likely than women to take their own lives. In 2014, 459 people took their own lives, of whom 368 were men and 91 were women. Men aged 50-54 are the most likely to die by suicide, while women appear to be most vulnerable when aged 25-29 years.

The Samaritans, who collated the research from Central Statistics Office data, urged the Government to make suicide prevention a priority.

Dear Minister,

I am a 6th year (17 years) student living in Cork City.

I am writing to you to discuss how disgusted I am at the choices you and the rest of our government are making regarding mental health in our country. I’m not here to give you the facts and figures of our countries suicide rates as you of all people should know just how shocking they are.

I am appalled that it has been decided that mental health isn’t as important as other things and ¤12 million has been cut from the funds. Do you know how many lives ¤12m could save?

Neither do I but even if it only saved one life it would be worth it. I am even more appalled at how much campaigning and time goes into other projects such as water charges and household tax, when in reality the way the people of our country are feeling and the stress they are under regarding money will leave the government with no population to pay such fees.

I don’t know about you but I think anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder etc. are just as terminal as cancer and eventually like every other illness take their toll so why are they not treated as serious?

Just this week, two people I personally knew decided to take their own lives, if two people took their own lives every week that would be a total of 104 people in Cork City alone.

It’s about time the stigma about mental health is lifted, it’s not something to be ashamed of and you as a government need to campaign that instead of your oh so important water charges. If students in secondary school had a class promoting good mental health just once a week, a place where they could learn that it’s okay not to be okay and it’s not weak to speak

imagine all the hurt it would save in the long run.

As I have already mentioned I am a sixth year pupil and one of the people I knew that took their own life just yesterday was a peer of mine. She was the most beautiful and bubbly girl I have ever met and she was only in 5th year. I don’t know about your personal experiences minister but if you have ever had to walk around a school like I did today and experience the

silence and hurt in the air you would be taking serious precautions to help the people of today’s Ireland, because mental health illnesses are real and they are becoming more common everyday, it’s time to make a change and that change has to begin with ye.


Sophie Geaney

A citizen seeking help


To be used with Session 9 of the Mind Your Head Resource

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