Black weekend shows scale of suicide crisis in Galway

There were at least five suicides on a black weekend for the county – underlining a senior Garda’s warning that this is now the single biggest threat facing communities across the West.

Superintendent Gerry Roche, in Ballinasloe, said that there is an epidemic of suicides ravaging families in Galway City and County, and he warned there needs to be societal changes to tackle the problem.

“The problem is not going away,” said Supt Roche, one of the founders of Galway East Life Support (GELS), which was set up last year to tackle the problem.

“Suicide is the biggest single issue facing every community in the West of Ireland. The number of people that have contacted us in GELS in the past year in relation to the problem is just phenomenal – it’s a huge problem.”

The suicide problem, that devastates communities, was brought into sharp focus at the weekend with a total of five tragic deaths in Galway, including two in Connemara, one in the city, one in North Galway and one in South Galway.

Last year, a total of 31 people took their own lives in Galway. According to the official Garda statistics, so far this year, there have been some 22 suicides recorded in Galway.

“There have been 22 suicides so far this year, which is well up on last year at this stage,” said Supt Roche who agreed the Galway suicide figures were frightening

Supt Roche said depression, loneliness, loss of hope, financial pressures and rural isolation were among the contributory factors in the surge in suicides. He said that often consumption of alcohol can be a contributory factor.

Supt Roche said that, even though the evenings are getting brighter, it doesn’t necessarily brighten the mood. “There’s a perception that with longer evenings people are happier but that’s not always the case and obviously people are struggling, even at this time of year.”

He said it is almost impossible for untrained civilians to ‘spot the signs’ of suicide in a loved one, and he urged members of the public to get training.

The HSE west has an ongoing ASIST (Applied Suicide Interventional Skills Training) course, to help people identify the signs of suicide; a Gatekeeper suicide prevention training; as well as other intervention and suicide ‘first-aid’ training courses.

“The problem of suicide needs to be highlighted. We are looking for a societal change; we have to change minds and the approach and the stigmatization,” added Supt Gerry Roche.

Anyone feeling suicidal, depressed or troubled can contact the following lifelines anonymously: Console – 1800 201890, the Samaritans – 1850 609090, 1 Life on 1800 247100 or text HELP to 51444.