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Bill Clinton Supports RehabCare Plans for a National Suicide Prevention Service

Former US President Bill Clinton is to lend his support to RehabCare’s efforts to fund a ground-breaking National Suicide Prevention Service.

The new service – the first of its kind in this country – is being developed at a time when the number of deaths by suicide in Ireland continue to increase.

A total of 444 people died by suicide in Ireland during 2003 – the last year for which figures are available. A further 58 died from undetermined causes, which have a high probability of being suicide related. More people die from suicide every year than are killed on our roads.

President Clinton will deliver a keynote address to a fundraising gala dinner in the City West Hotel on Monday May 23rd to help establish the service.

The former President accepted the invitation to address the event following an invitation by RehabCare supported by Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume. John Hume agreed to become patron of the event after learning about RehabCare’s work on suicide prevention.

The fund raising event is being sponsored by O2 and aims to raise over half a million euros to develop and initiate the national suicide prevention programme. The City West hotel venue is being provided free of charge by proprietor Jim Mansfield. Tickets for the event are available from RehabCare. Contact Rita Kelly tel: (01) 205 7331 or email rita.kelly@rehab.ie

“It is an extraordinary coup for RehabCare, in developing its suicide prevention programme to have the support of Bill Clinton, one of the world’s truly iconic figures. He has already done so much for this island through his work and support for the peace process and his support to this project will be invaluable, ” said John Hume MP when he launched the fund raising drive today (Monday 11th April).

According to official figures there were 11,200 cases of parasuicide in 2003. Of the 444 cases of suicide in 2003, men accounted for 80 per cent of the deaths.

Said RehabCare chief executive, Angela Kerins: “These stark figures only go some way towards conveying the devastation that is being caused by suicide in communities the length and breadth of Ireland.

“More people are dying each year by suicide than on our roads. And suicide is now the biggest cause of death among young men in the 15-24 age group.

“This is a national crisis and RehabCare is going to tackle it by establishing Ireland’s first comprehensive national service to address all of the factors driving people – particularly young people to take their own lives.”

Supported by research and international best practice, the RehabCare Suicide Prevention Service will operate in a number of innovative ways, including training and providing consultancy and service development expertise to provide targeted support to people at risk of suicide.

The new service will support and empower those directly at risk, and those working with them both directly and indirectly to reduce the risk of suicide and self harm. This will involve implementing a programme to up-skill individuals and professionals working in this area to better understand positive mental health, reduce stigma and positively change attitudes towards mental illness and ultimately prevent suicide.

The RehabCare Suicide Prevention service will address this problem at a number of levels and through a roll out of pilot programmes. For example, nationally the new service will work to reduce stigma, change attitudes and heighten awareness of the programme through the media. In addition the programme will include a significant advisory and training service.

A key part of the new service will be the role of “messengers” - role models for young people – who will be recruited to help change attitudes and target young people.

Today John Hume MP directly appealed to likely role models to involve themselves in this new service. He said : “People who are role models, people with communicator credibility for young people will be asked, and I hope volunteer, to become involved in this service as health promotion messengers. I would appeal to you as potential key partners to involve yourself with this important and life saving service.”

Danuta Gray Chairperson of the RehabCare National Suicide Prevention programme fund-raising committee and major gala ball sponsor Chief Executive Officer O2 said : “This year the focus of O2’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy, as decided by our staff through focus groups, is young people and in particular young people who have difficulty communicating with the world around them.

“When you learn that one of the biggest barriers to suicide prevention is people’s inability to talk about their distress, to communicate their pain and ask for help, we gave this service our support because we can combine our resources with RehabCare’s expertise to support this new programme in a very positive way.”


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