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Minister meets Clonmel priest over south Tipperary suicides

By Sarah Mac Donald - 25 June, 2019

Fr Michael Toomey. Pic: RTE

A priest serving in Clonmel has met the Minister for Mental Health, Mr Jim Daly, to express his concern over the lack of support for mental health and drug prevention services in south Tipperary.

The meeting followed Fr Michael Toomey’s expression of concern over the number of suicides in the region.

After the meeting, the Clonmel priest called on Irish society to be more open about suicide and mental health problems and urged the government to “step up” to help tackle the crisis.

In his meeting with Minister Daly, Fr Toomey highlighted the lack of mental health facilities in Clonmel, Carrick-On-Suir and Tipperary as a whole, especially since the closure of St Michael’s Psychiatric Hospital in Clonmel in 2012.

Fr Toomey, who serves in Ss Peter and Paul parish in Clonmel, asked for the meeting with the Minister so that he could alert the government to the “real human challenges” and the “real cost of the lack of Mental Health supports and drug prevention facilities” on human lives across his parish, town and county.

Minister Daly met the priest at the Department of Health last week.

Fr Toomey presented a list of possible action points for the Minister to consider, which had been drawn up from feedback with families and agencies dealing with the issues of suicide and mental health.

According to Fr Toomey, these included “the opening of mental health beds, as Tipperary has no such beds available in the county and the St Luke’s Unit in Kilkenny cannot cope; the appointment of a Suicide Crisis Assessment Nurse as available in other parts of the country; a task force to look at the issues many are facing noting that Tipperary has had a higher than national average for suicide in the past five years; and support for the Gardaí in resources and in promoting positive mental health programmes and better drug prevention schemes in schools”.

“It is clear that support for mental health and drug prevention is seriously lacking across the whole area,” the priest warned.

A meeting about mental health in the Tipperary area is due to be held in July by the government, and the Minister pledged to raise the priest’s concerns and suggestions at this meeting.

Fr Toomey also appealed to parents to talk more openly with their children about mental health and drug issues, as he said he was seeing the issue across all age groups.

“To any parent who states that my child can talk to me about anything, and would never be involved in drugs or suicide, sadly, I am sitting with parents who say to me, ‘If only my child spoke to me’ after a tragedy,” Fr Michael said.

He noted that all of the students he spoke to, both school and college students, said that mental health and drug usage was very prevalent in Irish society.

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