‘Chronic’ levels of suicide urgently require out-of-hours services

By Maurice Garvey

SUICIDE rates in Cherry Orchard are currently at a “chronic” level with many people in the community pushing for the introduction of an out-of-hours service to tackle social issues in the area.

The Echo understands there has been four suicides in the Cherry Orchard area in the last six weeks alone – the latest tragedy this week involving a middle-aged man.

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Three local mothers also lost their lives, two within the space of five days – collectively leaving behind eight children.

A recent vigil in Cherry Orchard to remember those lost to suicide in the area drew a crowd of over 100 people.

Prior to the vigil, local woman Lisa Palmer gathered 1,200 signatures with a petition calling for the establishment of a 24/7 clinic to offer crisis intervention.

A recurring bugbear amongst many families is the lack of community services available after 5pm – particularly when most of the social issues affecting the community happen after these hours.

Dublin City Council’s Cherry Orchard Project Manager David O’Donovan is hoping to change this within his proposed action plan for the area.

All work on the plan so far has involved community input, which is crucial for it to be successful, according to O’Donovan.

“All work that is being done, like the new mural behind the crèche, is locally done,” said O’Donovan.

“We fund it, locals are doing it. One thing that has constantly been coming up with locals is community safety and family support. Suicide is chronic at the moment. There are other sub-headings like housing, a shopping centre and better use of green space, but these two (safety and support) are the most popular topics.

“Most services up here do their job 9am-5pm, but there is a four-eight hour period after this, that needs support. We’re not blaming people working 9-5, but we need a plan of attack to tackle the issues.”

Possible alternatives for service opening hours could involve a more flexible approach, but definitive plans will be decided upon between all community stakeholders.

The action plan has received solid backing from local TDs and councillors, whom O’Donovan meets once a month.

Cherry Orchard resident Kelly Ryan organised the suicide vigil, and says the recent tragedies have left the community reeling.

 “It’s gone out of control,” said Ms Ryan, a mother-of-five.

“I knew all three girls. You just don’t expect it. It’s always the ones with a happy face. I’m nowhere near qualified, but I have an opinion like everyone else. Suicide doesn’t care who you are. Look at Robin Williams. You could have all the money in the world but nobody is getting away from this.

Ms Ryan would like to see services open after hours, particularly at “weekends when there is nowhere for people to go in most cases.”

As for the action plan, O’Donovan is open to the idea of pilot programmes being introduced to the area.

He said: “If you want a pilot programme, Cherry Orchard is the place. A population of 13,000, census figures are not favourable in places, but there is potential for improvement.

“We will have a draft plan this day next month, and at the end of September we will have a public plan to take to government. Something like a shopping centre will take a bit more time with planning permission, but if we can get this in by the end of September, it could be included in the Budget for 2018, and enable us to tackle some of the issues.”

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