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Former President Clinton is Keynote Speaker at RehabCare Suicide Prevention Fundraiser

Former US President Bill Clinton tonight (Monday May 23rd) delivered the keynote address at a RehabCare Gala Banquet to raise funds for the development of a comprehensive national suicide programme in Ireland.

The event, organised in association with O2, is set to raise more than €500,000 towards the programme, which it is estimated will cost some €1.3 million to run in its first year.

President Clinton’s address at the City West event was witnessed by more than 1,000 people, including An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Opposition Leader Enda Kenny, along with other senior politicians, opinion formers and business leaders.

A total of 444 people died by suicide in Ireland during 2003 – the last year for which figures are available. There were 58 other deaths where suicide was strongly suspected, but couldn’t be confirmed.

Young males accounted for around 80 per cent of these deaths. As a result, suicide is now the biggest single cause of death among Irish males in the 15-24 year old age bracket.

During the same 12 month period there were also some 11,200 cases of people trying to take their own lives, a high proportion of these involved young women aged between 15-19.

Said RehabCare Chief Executive, Angela Kerins: “As one of the greatest communicators on the planet, there is no more appropriate supporter of suicide prevention than President Clinton, whether in Ireland or anywhere else and we are deeply grateful for his support.

“The power of communication lies at the very heart of the measures required to tackle this crisis. There is no doubt that a factor in many suicides is the inability, especially of young men to discuss their problems and therefore to deal with the worst of what life throws at them in the most effective way.

“That is why a major focus of our programme will be to open up avenues of communication with young people to get the message across that look for help is okay. What me must achieve is a comprehensive programme which diverts young people from taking their own lives.

“444 people is 444 families, 444 communities – in just one year hundreds of schools, workplaces colleges have been forever touched by this tragedy. We cannot, any one of us, stand by and watch this continue to happen to our communities, to our children, to our friends.”

The main elements of the RehabCare programme include:

- Promoting positive communication, reducing stigma attached to seeking help, attitude change on mental health issues and media awareness.

- School and community based prevention programmes.

- Advisory and training consultancy for groups such as sporting bodies, parents organisations, student bodies etc.

- Acute intervention services in accident and emergency departments and a national helpline.

Ms Kerins said RehabCare is committed to working in partnership with other organisations to develop this approach within the framework of the Government’s forthcoming National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention.

“Much good work is being done by many groups locally on suicide prevention, and co-operation is essential to ensure a cohesive national response to suicide prevention.”

Said Danuta Gray, Chief Executive, O2: “Communications is our business, that’s what we do, we put people in touch with each other 24 hours a day 365 days a year. We are committed to using our resources including our marketing power, our technology, our people and our finance where we can, to assist suicide prevention in Ireland.”

Patron of the event, Nobel Peace Prize winner, John Hume said that suicide has been identified as a terrible problem in society. “Like a scythe it cuts down some of our brightest young people, devastating families and scarring whole communities,” said Mr Hume.

“Tonight’s event will enable RehabCare to work in partnership with other agencies to develop a co-ordinated and cohesive programme that will make a difference and will save lives.”

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