Noel Smyth is Founder of Noel Smyth & Partners Solicitors which was established in 1981 and is based in Ely Place, Dublin 2. He sits on the Boards of a large number of companies and institutions as well as a number of registered charities. He is Chairman of 3Ts, a registered charity working to help prevent deaths by suicide through research, intervention and support.
Call for public support as draft bill for suicide prevention authority presented to government
3TS (Turn the Tide on Suicide) have ramped up their campaign for a Suicide Prevention Authority via a Draft Legal Bill for the provision of an Authority, copies of which have now been sent to all incumbent Ministers and TDs. The Bill has been prepared pro-bono by Margaret O’Driscoll BL (who contributed to the drafting of the original Road Safety Authority Bill which became the Road Safety Authority Act 2006) and sets out preliminary legislation to lower death by suicide in Ireland in the same way that the RSA has lowered deaths on Irish roads.
“Only an Authority with the power to act as an independent body including the appropriation of qualified, ring-fenced funds can effectively tackle the scourge of suicide in Ireland” according to the Chairman of 3Ts, Noel Smyth.
“Currently, we are losing two people every day to suicide in Ireland. Many people, including members of our medical & legal communities, share the view that far from being a hopeless situation, better coordinated services and protected funds will actually save lives lost. In short, suicide can be as preventable as deaths on our roads.”
The main objects of the Bill are as follows:
- Create a framework for suicide and self-harm prevention in Ireland;
- Set up a Public Accounts Committee to investigate how monies are being sent and adjudge their efficacy;
- Change current thinking that suicide cannot be prevented via a sustained Public Information Campaign;
- Accelerate a mental health and suicide prevention Education Framework on all levels – primary, secondary and university;
- Set up a dedicated Suicide Prevention service in every A&E unit in Ireland; and
- Coordinate so that the best service providers are available to everyone in Ireland.
The Authority could also:
- Coordinate, liaise and licence all charities involved in suicide prevention, mental health and any related matter;
- Instigate a regulation and licencing framework for counsellors, therapists and all practitioners providing psychological, behavioural and mental health therapies and services;
- Focus on delinquent and pervasive websites and bring court proceedings in its own right; and
- Collect, coordinate and collate information showing the statistics that exist on economic loss that occurs through mental illness, depression and suicide.
Who would ‘run’ such an Authority?
- An independent board, with no hierarchy, similar to the RSA, with board members providing different areas of expertise.
- The board would hold in its own way and right Government to account because of its independence so therefore the various pre-election promises made by all of the political parties would become a source of a reminder as to how important it is to hold politicians to account and the basis upon which they were elected.
If the Bill is successful, it will enable this authority to have its own ring-fenced funds incapable of being diverted and would address the “patch work” nature of the services that currently exist for those seeking help for mental illness. It will prevent suicides.
An authority will have the ability to tap into all of the Government Departments: Education, Health, Justice, Social Welfare etc. It will be independently chaired and will call to account, akin to HIQA, the services being provided and independently provide and insist on the best standards that can be secured for our people.
The sad fact is that we are still, on average, losing two people per day to suicide, where the information and a host of other issues on the collation and collection of that information remain opaque.
We are unlikely to change attitudes and to save lives unless and until we address this problem as being one that will continuously worsen with an increasing population; greater numbers of young people are currently exposed to circumstances and influences without the necessary care and support that we are capable of giving them.
Most importantly, a Suicide Prevention Authority would set about synthesizing suicide charities in this country based on their unique offering and merit. Currently, there are 500 or so suicide charities in existence in Ireland.
Accompanying literature with the Draft Bill requests that Ministers and TDs take a firm stand on suicide prevention, adding the provision of an Authority to their respective party manifestos.
Similarly, 3TS urges all members of the electorate to question canvassing politicians on the issue in advance of the upcoming General Election and to visit our website (3ts.ie) where they can register their support for this draft Bill with their own local TDs and representatives. A full copy of the Bill and the memorandum is also available by visiting www.3ts.ie