THIS country has the highest birthrate in Europe. It also has the highest suicide rate in Europe.
In the past few months we have been rocked by the suicide reports that have appeared in our newspapers, and this in a country that only a few years ago was rated one of the happiest in the world by The Economist magazine.
One person who knows at first hand just how serious the problem is the Dundalk region, is Davina Shorthall, co-ordinator in Dundalk of SOSAD (Save Our Sons and Daughters).
The mission of this voluntary organisation is to try and prevent people taking their own lives.
As Davina points out, SOSAD tries to provide the best possible care and support to anyone affected by suicide or depression.
“SOSAD’s services are available to anyone who needs them and we do not discriminate against any person or group,” she explained.
“Our volunteers treat anyone who uses the service with respect, dignity and honesty. We abide by the strictest level of confidentiality.”
The Dundalk branch offers professional help, confidentially, and most importantly, shows people they are not alone, even though they might feel they are because the pain is so unbearable.
There is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues in this country, but efforts have been made by many high profile people to tackle this problem.
The television presenter Ruby Wax, who is also a psychotherapist, attended a psychology seminar in Sligo last summer and spoke about her own depression, which she has suffered from for years.
She said depression feels like the self has gone on holidays.
“You are there but the real you is not really there,” she explained
Anybody who has been in that position - and according to statistics one-in-four of us will be at some stage in our lives - will say that is exactly what it is like.
When people are depressed they cannot empathise in the normal way. It’s as if the real part of them is away somewhere.
Other people who have talked about depression and suicidal thoughts have been Alastair Campbell, who was Tony Blair’s PR, and Irish Independent journalist Billy Keane.
These people have been highly praised, and rightly so, for their honesty and courage. They show ordinary people, especially young men who figure high in the suicide statistics, that highly successful people are just as vulnerable and as human as the rest of us, and mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of, and you should always ask for help.
These top names are helping, like Davina Shorthall and her colleagues at SOSAD Dundalk.
They are reaching out and saying it’s okay to feel this way, and there is always a way out, and that way is never suicide.
Last autumn, during World Suicide Prevention Week, SOSAD in Dundalk held a number of very informative and well attended events.
“Reach out, Speak out”, was their message and the people of Dundalk really responded.
“We would like to thank everyone who supported us in any way,” said Davina, “and we would also like to thank all the SOSAD volunteers who worked so hard to make each and every event so successful. We would not be able to do anything without their help.”
“Our volunteers are our strength and are committed to working with one another and other agencies in order to deliver the best possible care and support.
A psychologist once said: “it’s the people who ask themselves ‘how do I get out of this’ that find a way out.
SOSAD is that help, the way out.
To contact SOSAD Dundalk:
Phone 042 9327311