Since it was first set up more than a decade ago in Lucan, Co Dublin, Pieta House has been providing a free therapeutic service to people in suicidal distress or who are self-harming. Aviva chose Pieta House as their charity partner in 2016 and have an ongoing commitment to support the organisation.
Due to the increase in demand for its services, Pieta House has set up an additional nine crisis centres – three in Dublin and another six centres in Limerick, Tipperary, Cork, Kerry, Galway and Waterford. Almost 180 therapists and administrative staff work at Pieta House.
Aviva, as a company support Pieta House, and this is seen right down at employee level, who last year, came together to raise and donate €112,000 to the crisis centre. In addition, 216 employees gave 714 hours of volunteering work to the charity. This involved fundraising events, skill sharing and volunteering some of their time at Pieta House events.
While it can often be taboo to talk about suicide and self-harm, it is vital that we open up the dialogue, explains Cindy O’Connor, Chief Clinical Officer at Pieta House.
Recent figures released by the National Suicide Research Foundation show that the rates of self-harm in Ireland in 2015 were 9% higher than in 2007, with a 15% increase in self-harm rates amongst men and boys since 2007.
With self-harm, people can often be confused as to why a loved one or friend is doing it.
The reasons for self-harming will be different for each individual, says O’Connor, but it is often a coping strategy. And depression is not always a factor.
“There are a lot of people who experience depression and who would never self-harm.”
When somebody cannot verbalise or express what is going on for them, self-harm can be a way of coping with their anger or sadness. And if you do know someone is self-harming, it is about encouraging them to seek help.
“It is looking at what will work for the individual rather than imposing something on them.”
In March, Pieta House and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services held a Self-Harm Awareness Conference in Aviva Stadium, with the aim of starting a broader conversation about self-harm.
Every 40 seconds across the globe, somebody dies by suicide, and according to the World Health Organisation, it is the second leading cause of death amongst people who are between 15 and 29.
The Irish Government has launched the strategy Connecting for Life (2015-2020) to reduce suicide and to empower communities to both prevent and respond to suicidal behaviour.
Major life upsets such as the loss of a job or a relationship breakdown are risk factors for suicide.
People with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder would definitely be at more risk of suicide, according to O’Connor.
“Very often the signs are there, but a lot of the time people don’t have the ‘awareness’ of suicide to see what is going on with another person. If we see that there are signs, we really shouldn’t be afraid to open up the dialogue and to ask somebody how they are feeling. It would be great if we could become more comfortable with the language of suicide.”
If somebody is in distress, people can act on this by referring them to their nearest Pieta House (Call 1800 247 247 or visit www.pieta.ie).
“We accept third-party referrals. The service is free of charge and you don’t need a letter from your GP,” she adds.
For people who want to support Pieta House through fundraising and volunteering, you can learn about ways of getting involved by clicking here. Another way to support the charity is by participating in the Darkness into Light fundraising event. Darkness into Light 2017 will take place on 6 May.