The news that Roscommon County Hospital had to deal with 137 cases of deliberate self-harm over a twelve-month period has once again placed the spotlight on suicide trends in this county. A spokesperson for one local community group set up specifically to address the perceived increase in instances of suicide in the county said that the figures released this week were ‘alarming’ and that those who self-harm are issuing ‘a cry for help.’ Mr. Noel Collins of Elphin SOS added that a major problem that has come to light is the ‘lack of after-care for people who have been bereaved by suicide in County Roscommon.’ Meanwhile a local TD, Deputy Denis Naughten, said that more government money needs to be directed towards mental health issues and suicide-related affairs. Figures relating to the treatment of people at Roscommon County Hospital following episodes of deliberate self-harm were revealed for the first time ever in recent days. A report reveals that there were 137 cases of people being treated for deliberate self-harm at Roscommon Hospital in 2005. It emerged that ten people aged fifteen or under were amongst those admitted to Roscommon Hospital. The statistics, while important in their own right, in no way tell the complete story on deliberate self-harm and attempted suicide in County Roscommon; many other individuals will report to other hospitals in any given year, and many people self-harm but do not go to a GP or are not referred to a Hospital. Deliberate self-harm (DSH) is considered to be the strongest indication of future suicidal behaviour, both non-fatal and fatal. In the past two years there has been a significant pro-active community response to instances of suicide in County Roscommon with the establishment of an action group in Elphin (Elphin SOS) and the undertaking of a suicide prevention campaign by Roscommon Lions Club. The report was launched at the second annual Forum of the National Office for Suicide Prevention which took place in The Burlington Hotel in Dublin last Thursday The report indicates that the episodes of treatment at Roscommon Hospital for deliberate self-harm in 2005 involved 73 males and 64 females. There were a further 148 Hospital-treated episodes in Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe over the same period. Of the 137 cases in Roscommon, ten involved persons aged below fifteen years (five male, five female); there were a further sixteen cases involving teenagers aged 19 or under. The statistics add weight to the view (itself supported by a range of other statistics) that suicidal behaviour is most closely associated with young or relatively young people. Of the 137 cases recorded at Roscommon Hospital just 48 related to persons aged 44 or over. Deputy Denis Naughten (Fine Gael) told the Roscommon People this week that while he acknowledges that the current government have increased the level of funding going into the health sector, funding in the area of mental health has ‘fallen behind’ in percentage terms. Deputy Naughten said that Fine Gael had pledged some months ago to significantly increase funding for mental health issues, particularly in respect of the area of suicide. ‘Funding for suicide has been woefully low and it is the case that it (suicide) is the single biggest killer of young males in this country. Less people die on our roads than by suicide so this is an area that needs to be urgently addressed.’ Mr. Noel Collins of Elphin SOS said that the statistics were very alarming and the episodes of self-harm represented a cry for help. He said he is concerned about the lack of after-care for people bereaved by suicide. ‘It is unbelieveable that there is nowhere to direct people after 5 pm.’ Mr. Collins added that he believes GAA coaches should be trained in positive mental health as one step towards trying to address the suicide rate involving young males. * Roscommon Lions Club, Aware, HSE and Mental Health Ireland will combine to host a number of ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) courses in locations in County Roscommon in the coming months, beginning in Roscommon town and Castlerea within the coming weeks. More details in coming issues.