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11/10/2016 - Exploring Suicide Prevention at Connecting for Life conference


Suicide Prevention

Pictured at the Connecting for Life Conference from left to right: Katie Boyle Donegal Travellers Project, Sarah Toye SCAN Nurse, Siobhan McLaughlin Donegal Travellers Project, Geraldine Murray MABS North Donegal, Kieran Doherty Alcohol Forum and Anne Sheridan HSE



The first annual Connecting for Life conference for Donegal was held on Friday last in the Inishowen Gateway, Buncrana.



The purpose of the conference is to share good practices and build connections in suicide prevention. There was a great turnout with over 80 individuals from Health, Education and Community & Voluntary organisations interested or involved in suicide prevention in attendance.



The conference comes under the Connecting for Life Donegal action plan which is a 5 year plan (2015 -2020) for suicide prevention that involves a broad range of organisations and individuals from the statutory, non-statutory,  the community and voluntary sector, and also the general public. This local plan forms part of the national Connecting for Life strategy which sets a minimum target of a 10% reduction in the suicide rate in Ireland by 2020.


Suicide Prevention

Liam Ward Director of Service, Donegal County Council speaking at the Connecting for Life Conference in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel in Buncrana



The conference was chaired by Liam Ward, Director of Community, Enterprise & Planning Services in Donegal County Council and the opening address was provided by an Cathaoirleach, Cllr. Terence Slowey.



Speaking on the deeply sensitive and devastating issue that is suicide in society the Cathaoirleach noted the need for cooperation in this area saying “in the world we live in today with people facing many different types of difficult situations and challenges it is hard to think of anyone who has not been directly affected by suicide or mental health issues. Now, more so than ever, we must stress the importance and value of community, community spirit, and cooperation to combat these issues”.



“We as a Local Authority have an onus to help people with mental health issues and focus on providing support to people who are in crisis, whether it be housing, job creation or promoting social inclusion.  Our aim here today is to bring people together from different sectors, services and communities in order to strengthen our collective ability to be a major force for change in suicide prevention in Donegal.”   



Anne Sheridan, Mental Health Promotion/Suicide Resource Officer for HSE Donegal gave an update on the implementation of the Connecting for Life action plan to date followed by a number of guest speakers from different areas of the community. 



Emma Lawrence from Buncrana gave a very personal and moving message of hope about her own issues with mental health and suicide and her journey to recovery.   Siobhan McLaughlin from Donegal Travellers Project gave a talk on the work of her organisation and the mental health issues faced by Travellers and other ethnic minorities in the County.  Sarah Toye, Suicide Crisis Assessment Nurse, talked about GP and primary care and a new approach to the assessment and care management for those in suicide crisis.  Geraldine Murray, MABS North Donegal, provided information on debt and mental health issues and the different kinds of help people faced with these problems can access.   Finally, Kieran Doherty from the Alcohol Forum gave a talk on the link between alcohol abuse and mental health issues.



This was followed by a short workshop discussion where groups provided feedback on the day and also exchanged ideas and information on the different services and the connections that can be made in the area of suicide prevention.



To conclude, Dr. Kevin Malone, Professor of Psychiatry & Mental Health in UCD gave an overview of the national and local picture in terms of suicide rates and encouraged the audience to keep strengthening their cooperation and build deeper connections as the best means of promoting positive mental health and reducing rates of suicide.



Attendees were then invited to the Lived Lives Lost exhibition, an exhibition of stories of young lives lost to suicide in Ireland, in Fort Dunree organised by Donegal County Council Cultural Arts Service, Inishowen Development Partnership and the HSE.


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