A long-running campaign to establish a suicide crisis centre in Galway came to fruition this week, with the news that Pieta House will open its first West of Ireland branch in the coming months.
The official confirmation was made by the charity to coincide with World Suicide Awareness Day on Monday, with the new suicide and self-harm crisis centre to be located in Tuam.
The Galway centre will be Pieta House’s third facility and will greatly extend the scope of its services, which are currently centred around Dublin and Limerick.
Local businessman John Concannon and star of RTÉ’s The Secret Millionaire has been the main driving force behind the campaign to open a Pieta House centre in the West. He said he is delighted with the progress that has been made.
“The campaign to open a centre here in Tuam has been ongoing for the past 18 months and the support we’ve received from the local community has been really extraordinary,” said Mr Concannon.
“It’s been a three county fundraising effort, with Galway, Mayo and Roscommon all working together, and we’re very close to reaching our target amount of €250,000. We have very active committees campaigning and fundraising in each county, and we could not have achieved this great result without their commitment and dedication.”
A residential premises on Bishop Street in Tuam has already been secured and there is a change-of-use planning application currently lodged with the local authority. The Tuam location was chosen in order to make the Pieta House services convenient to those living in Mayo and Roscommon, as well as those in Galway City and County.
While the house is “just a shell” at present, unemployed local trades people have committed their time and skills to transforming it into a suitable space. This internal work on the house is due to start in five to six weeks time.
CEO and founder of Pieta House Joan Freeman said facilities such as the Tuam crisis centre would become increasingly important as cuts to the Government’s mental health budget begin to make an impact.
“Last week’s decision by the government to use the €35 million allocated for mental health services this year to offset the deficit in the HSE is very disappointing,” said Ms Freeman.
“This move is further proof that we all need to come together as a community in the fight against suicide and make things happen for ourselves. The opening of our Tuam centre would not have happened without John Concannon, and such local heroes are needed now more than ever.”
The demand for Pieta House’s services continues to grow and the first six months of this year saw a 40 per cent increase in the number of people attending Pieta House. The age groups that saw the biggest increase were men aged 26 to 44 (62 per cent) and men aged 45 to 64 (67 per cent).
“Although this increase is encouraging, we still find that men are far less likely than women to seek help, particularly those in the under-25 age group. We urge people to contact us if they believe that one of their family members or friends may be in difficulty,” added Ms Freeman.
Pieta House provides its services free of charge and, by the end of this year, will have helped more than 8,000 people since its establishment in 2006.
As 80 per cent of Pieta House’s funding comes from public donations, local fundraising is vital to ensure that the organisation can cope with the increasing numbers seeking help.
“We believe that mental health is a basic human right and we want to reinforce the message that communities need to embrace those in suicidal distress. I hope the success of John Concannon’s campaign against suicide in the West will inspire others to come together and make a positive difference in their own areas,” she said.