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Connacht Tribune

Black weekend shows scale of suicide crisis in Galway

Dara Bradley

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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.

Connacht Tribune

Compliant Galwegians are keeping their distance

Francis Farragher

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Checkpoint...Garda warning for those who stray too far from home.

BOY racers, cyclists, gym users and young people attending house parties are among those in Galway who have been issued with Fixed Payment Notices (FPNs) for breaching the Covid-19 travel regulations over the past week.

However, Gardaí in Galway have reported ‘a very high-level of compliance’ from the general public as regards the travel restrictions that are a central part of the Level-5 ‘Stay Home – Stay Safe’ Covid campaign.

Over the weekend, Gardaí issued FPNs to so-called ‘boy racers’ in two separate cases on the Tuam Road outside Galway city and in the Craughwell area.

FPNs – involving a €100 on-the-spot fine – were also issued last week to a number of young people attending house parties in the Galway city area, after Gardaí had been called to the scene.

Two cyclists stopped in the Cornamona area of North Connemara last week, who were 19 kilometres from their homes – and outside their own county boundary – also faced Garda censure.

The cyclists weren’t from the same household; they weren’t wearing masks; and also, were in breach of social distancing regulations.

Gardaí also came across a case of a gym in South Galway being used by a number of people last week – also a breach of the Covid-19, Level-5 restrictions.

While Gardaí also received a number of calls about possible ‘pub-opening’ violations, on investigation, they found no sign of activity on the premises they checked out.

Galway Chief Garda Superintendent, Tom Curley, told the Connacht Tribune that overall, there was ‘a very high level of compliance’ as regards the travel restrictions which was ‘very encouraging’.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Lessons learned on home-schooling

Denise McNamara

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Cathal Moore, principal of the Presentation Athenry.

Home-schooling is working better this time round with many teachers conducting live classes and more students actively engaging than when schools closed suddenly last March.

But virtual education is a poor substitute for the experience of the classroom with students sorely missing social interaction, according to teachers, while parents are still struggling to balance working from home with ensuring their children keep up with the school work.

The sooner that schools can reopen safely the better for everyone – although most agree that it’s looking more likely to be after mid-term than at the beginning of February.

“Everybody is in a better place this time round – schools, teachers, parents and students. Everybody expected to be back at school. It’s no secret last time we got two hours’ notice but this time round we’re better prepared,” remarks the principal of the Presentation Athenry, Cathal Moore.

The mixed secondary school is doing a mix of live and recorded classes as not every student has good broadband.

After the first week, there was feedback from students that they felt there was too much homework in addition to the virtual classes while teachers reported that they would prefer more live communication from their charges.

“It is more tiring – fatigue is definitely a factor when on a screen all day and if this goes on for a prolonged amount of time it will creep in for a growing number of students.”

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Hard-pressed hospitals down 450 staff over Covid

Dara Bradley

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More than 450 staff – including nurses at UHG and Portiuncula – are now out of work due to Covid, as staff shortages threaten the public hospitals’ ability to cope with the crisis.

The upsurge has seen UHG deal with a record number of Covid-19 patients, and the hospital had to escalate its surge capacity plan and add extra beds in ICU.

The latest CSO figures reveal that the first week of the New Year was Galway’s deadliest yet on the pandemic front, with five lives lost over those opening seven days of 2021.

That brought the total number of virus fatalities in Galway to 25, and it’s understood there have been further deaths locally since then, which will be confirmed later.

From March to the end of November there were 20 deaths notified in Galway, and no further deaths were recorded in all of December.

News of Galway’s deadliest week comes as local leaders in the HSE, Garda, and local government joined forces to warn that Covid-19 was still spreading rapidly in the community.

Nationally, between January 5 and 18, there were 263 Covid-19 deaths recorded, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), which does not give a geographical breakdown. Of these deaths, 119 were hospitalised and 14 had been admitted to ICU.

The median age of all of Galway’s Covid fatalities is 83; the median age of the confirmed cases in Galway is 31 – the lowest of 26 counties.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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