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Taoiseach and Minister Lynch launch ‘Connecting for Life’ – Ireland’s new National Strategy for Suicide Prevention 2015-2020

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and Ms. Kathleen Lynch, Minister for Primary Care, Social Care, and Mental Health, today (Wednesday 24th June 2015) launched ‘Connecting for Life’, Ireland’s new National Strategy for Suicide Prevention in Ireland 2015-2020, at an event attended by mental health partner organisations and stakeholder groups in Farmleigh House. The new strategy succeeds and builds upon ‘Reach Out’, Ireland’s first Strategy for Suicide Prevention for the period 2005-2014.
‘Connecting for Life’ sets out a vision of an Ireland where fewer lives are lost through suicide, and where communities and individuals are empowered to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

Commenting on the new strategy An Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, "Connecting for Life is an ambitious strategy which sets a target to reduce suicide and self-harm by 10% over the next five years. As a Government, despite financial constraints, we have maintained and will continue to maintain mental health as a priority. Suicide prevention is everyone's concern and this strategy is a national plan for the whole of Government and the whole of society to work together."

Minister Kathleen Lynch said, ”Looking after our mental health is a cornerstone of improving the health of our people. It is as important as physical health. As a Government we have been putting the structures in place to try to ensure that people get the right type of mental health treatment in the right place and above all at the right time. We have developed services in primary care for those who have mild and moderate mental health needs. We are continuing to develop care for those who are acutely unwell. We are finally seeing a breakthrough in some of the recruitment challenges that didn’t allow us to provide as extensive a service as we would like. We are committed to replacing the old central mental hospital with a state of the art National Forensic Hospital which will be operational by 2018. We are developing four 30 bed intensive care rehabilitation units in Cork, Galway, Portrane and Westmeath. We are supporting organisations that are supporting people in our communities who are stressed, depressed or need to talk. One size doesn’t fit all in mental health and the range of services reflects this. As part of the suicide strategy, we need to connect with ourselves, our families, our communities and the services that are on offer."
Welcoming the ‘Connecting for Life’ Strategy, the HSE National Director for Mental Health, Anne O’Connor said “It will serve to promote the mental health of the population including reducing loss of life by suicide, as communities and individuals will be empowered to promote and improve their mental health and wellbeing. The HSE will play a pivotal role through its work in the National Office for Suicide Prevention, the Mental Health Division, the Health and Well-being Division, the Primary Care Division and the Acute Hospitals Division. We look forward to leading, supporting and collaborating on this comprehensive strategy.”
Director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) Mr Gerry Raleigh said, “Our focus is to reduce suicide. 'Connecting for Life' provides clear direction. We have developed the strategy by following a collaborative, inclusive and evidence informed pathway. We must now move into focused action and be accountable for what we do to reduce suicide in Ireland. We recognise that we cannot do this alone, no single agency, no single Government Department, no single individual can reduce suicide on their own. Therefore, we must ensure that we work together to achieve our shared and attainable goal for our nation.”
A copy of 'Connecting for Life' can be found here
Ends

Note for Editors
Context
Central Statistics Office (CSO) data shows that between 2007 and 2011 there was an increase in the suicide rate in Ireland, specifically among men. Recent figures point to a reduction in the rate of suicide. CSO confirmed figures for 2012 indicate that 541 people lost their lives by suicide. Provisional figures for 2013 (475 deaths) and 2014 (459 deaths) indicate a decrease in the numbers of deaths by suicide. The National Registry of Deliberate Self-Harm indicates that in 2013 there were 11,061 presentations to hospital due to deliberate self-harm. International evidence confirms the presence of mental health issues; particularly depression and anxiety and also co-morbidity with drugs and alcohol are factors which significantly increase the risk of suicidal behaviour amongst individuals.

‘Connecting for Life’ Goals
This vision set out in ‘Connecting for Life’ is to be realised through seven goals:
1. Better understanding of suicidal behaviour
2. Supporting communities to prevent and respond to suicide behaviour
3. Targeted approaches for those vulnerable to suicide
4. Improved access, consistency and integration of services
5. Safe and high-quality services
6. Reduce access to means
7. Better data and research
The strategy document provides a detailed and clear plan to achieve each of the goals it proposes, with defined actions and a lead agency and key partners in place for each individual objective (Government Departments, HSE, NGO partners and community groups). This action plan will be supported by robust implementation and governance structures and resourcing and communications frameworks. Monitoring and evaluation will be embedded into the implementation process, with an accompanying outcomes framework in place, which will allow progress to be tracked and the impact of the Strategy to be objectively measured against baseline indicators. The implementation structure agreed sets out clear lines of responsibility and accountability at all levels- political, administrative and local levels. The National Office for Suicide Prevention’s role and authority given to support the implementation of the strategy is clearly set out.
Connecting for Life- Key features
1. Provision of suicide prevention services
Connecting for Life presents the commitment to develop, provide, co-ordinate, monitor and evaluate public services aimed at reducing suicidal behaviour in Ireland up to 2020, based on the current evidence available. It builds upon Reach Out, Ireland’s first suicide prevention strategy (2005-2014)
Connecting for Life sets out sixty-nine actions agreed by ten Government Departments, twenty-one State Agencies, NGO, Community and Voluntary sector partners to achieve the seven goals as listed above.
These actions will impact on:
· The Health Services
· The Education Sector
· The Criminal Justice and Equality Systems
· Social Protection and Inclusion
· Children, Youth and Family Services
· Media and Communications Sector
· The Environment, Community and Local Government Sectors
· Sports and Recreation Sectors
· Agriculture and Marine Sectors
· Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Sectors
· The Defence Sector
The commitments to action are reflective not alone of the specific spheres of responsibilities of the individual Departments and Agencies, but also their agreement to work collaboratively and improve co-ordination. This provides the opportunity for more focused and improved ‘reach’ into the general public and also to populations and individuals at increased risk of suicidal behaviour. This ‘reach’ will allow for the reduction of risk and the strengthening of protective factors for all.
2. Monitoring and Evaluation
Monitoring and Evaluation is embedded into the implementation process through an outcomes framework that will track and assess the impact of the strategy against set indicators over time. This approach is unique in terms of comparable national suicide prevention strategies.
Connecting for Life sets out with two primary outcomes, which include:
· Reduced suicide rate in the whole population and amongst specified priority groups.
· Reduced rate of presentations of self-harm in the whole population and amongst specified priority groups.
The WHO target of a 10% reduction in the rates of suicide by 2020 is identified as the minimum objective. The outcomes framework also includes a series of Intermediate Outcomes against which progress relating to specific actions will be monitored.
3. Governance and Implementation
A clear national governance structure is identified to drive the implementation of the strategy. The structure provides the required levels of oversight in terms of responsibility and accountability. It includes:
· High level political leadership
· Administrative leadership at national and local level involving all key partners
· Clearly defines the role of the National Office for Suicide Prevention as supporting the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the strategy
· Governance is supported by a resource and communication frameworks
The strategy provides a very clear structure to enable the translation of national policy into local implementation in a consistent, sustainable and structured manner.
4. Cross-Sectoral dependencies
Whilst the focus of Connecting for Life is suicide prevention, the strategy clearly identifies the level of cross dependency with other Government policies e.g. The National Drugs Strategy, Healthy Ireland, A Vision for Change, Better Outcomes Brighter Futures. As such the actions and commitments included in Connecting for Life will support and also be dependent upon the successful implementation of such policies.
5. Connecting for Life- The evidence base
Connecting for Life is based upon current national and international evidence in relation to effective suicide prevention strategies. This evidence base continues to grow and develop across the world. There is growing comfort by the population in addressing the issue of suicide and mental health since Reach Out was published and over 270 contributions were made as part of the public consultation process. The implementation structures for Connecting for Life places a strong emphasis on evaluation and research. The strategy will therefore contribute both to the national and international knowledge base concerning suicidal behaviour and help shape and guide the provision of preventative strategies and services in the future.