Alarming increase in number of referrals over attempted suicides


Charles Eames

ROLE… Reverend Charles Eames

THE NUMBER of local people treated for suicide attempts and self-harm at a local counselling service has soared by 30 per cent prompting concerns that people suffering from mental health issues are on the rise.


The worrying number of referrals from the Western Health Trust’s mental health team to the Aisling Centre in Enniskillen emerged following a suicide awareness event organised by a local Church of Ireland reverend.

Conor McCafferty, the director of Zest – a support group for people suffering from emotional problems –  believes that more people are seeking help for their issues.
He also said that the Western Trust area (which includes Fermanagh) suffers from a disproprtionately high number of suicide attempts and self-harm incidents where alcohol has been a contributing factor.

It is estimated that over half of local people who self-harm have been drinking at the time.

Mr McCafferty issued a stark warning over the dangers of alcohol and the devastating effects it can have on vulnerable people.

“We can become suicidal in the period of getting drunk,” he said.

“If someone’s circumstances are hard then getting drunk will magnify it. You could end up doing things you wouldn’t do when you are sober. The reality is, it’s a problem.
“The messages and adverts about talking and don’t keep it to yourself are seeing more people are coming for help. Life now is more difficult with money and financial worries among other things.

“There’s never only one issue – it’s always a combination of things. It could be a straightforward issue but if they keep it to themselves then it snowballs.”


Despite the fact that men are three times more likely to end their lives, the Aisling Centre treats around the same amount of men and women.

The increasing number of referrals has meant that Mr McCafferty had to take on an extra counsellor as well as working an extra day himself to ensure that all patients were seen.

He added: “It just shows how many people are needing help but that’s good they are looking for it and getting it.”

Rev Charles Eames of Magheracross, Ballinamallard, organised the suicide awareness talk in response to the number of suicides in Fermanagh communities over the last few years.

Rev Eames believes that the churches have a pivotal role in offering support to locals.

He said: “The main challenge, as a church, is how we can show the care and compassion that Conor was talking about to those who are in various situations and struggling in various ways.

“Our challenge is what we do next and how to address that.

“It’s concerning that so many people were taking their lives and I think as a church we have to try, we can’t fix the world but I think it’s important we do something.

“We can provide a place of acceptance and hope. As churches we can tend to be judgmental and if we do that people won’t come to speak to us. But as church ministers, leaders and as Christians we should be open to try and help people even if it is simply to speak to us.

“If a church isn’t trying to meet people where they are at then they are failing.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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