Written Answers. - Suicide Incidence.

Dan Neville

Question:

592 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the response which he has received, following the publication of the recommendations of the national task force on suicide, from the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Education and Science and the Environment and Local Government in view of his Department's contacts with them on the implementation of the recommendations of the task force. [1838/99]

I have received responses from the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of the Environment and Local Government following the publication of the National Task Force on Suicide report. An outline of the responses in relation to the implementation of the task force recommendations, in so far as it affects the Departments concerned, is set out below.

Department of Education and ScienceThe task force recommendations of concern to the Department relate to the expansion of the psychological and guidance counselling services, relevant training courses for teachers and the further development of programmes of social, personal and health education. Initiatives taken include: the Department produced a report at the end of 1998 recommending the expansion of the National Psychological Service; existing services have put procedures in place to help schools to cope with the aftermath of traumatic events such as suicide; the Department is committed to improving the guidance counselling services in post-primary schools; a pilot phase of a project to provide teaching counsellors in 30 schools has been evaluated and ten more teaching counsellors are being appointed in the current school year; and, programmes of social, personal and health education are being developed for both primary and secondary schools and the promotion of mental health will be central to them.
Department of Justice, Equality and Law ReformA working group has been established to review current coroner services. The working group will review the conduct of inquests and the Coroners Act, 1962 in order to facilitate coroners in returning verdicts of suicide, when appropriate. A number of successful initiatives towards addressing drug dependency problem in prisons have commenced, A national steering group was established in 1996 to oversee local suicide awareness groups in prisons. A report has been prepared on their findings and will be published shortly. Prison staff attend courses by the Samaritans on how to deal with traumatic situations and training in recognition of suicidal behaviour is covered in induction programmes for recruits. A new Form 104, proposed and designed by the task force, to be completed by members of the Garda Síochána in order to provide supplementary data relating to medical and social circumstances of persons who commit suicide has been agreed, approved and implemented in Kevin Street Garda station, Dublin. When the form is implemented nationally, an inspector will be appointed in each area to oversee the satisfactory completion of each form, a circular dealing with the issues of safe custody, storage, etc. of licensed firearms has been issued to the Garda Síochána. The issue of suicide has been included in the core programme of in-service training for members of an Garda Síochána for the year 1998-99.
Department of the Environment and Local GovernmentThe Department has stated that the traditional approach to housing provision has been the provision of low rise and low density developments. A circular has been issued to local authorities promoting the need for higher residential density in appropriate locations and outlining ways in which county councils use their development plans and planning powers to achieve this. A high quality of design and a good qualify living environment are highlighted as essential in the context of increased residential density. Consultants are to be commissioned to prepare planning guide lines on residential density and expand on advice already given to authorities. Local authorities must have regard to the need for housing accommodation of ten specific categories of persons when carrying out their statutory assessment of housing needs. One of these relates to persons living in overcrowded accommodation.