Housing crisis link to suicide ‘cluster’ in West Dublin

by Sylvia Pownall

A cluster of suicides among young women in west Dublin last year has been linked to the housing crisis, a HSE probe has found.

Domestic violence, social media, drug use and fears their children could be removed by Tusla are also cited in the report as reasons some women don’t seek help.

The investigation was ordered by the HSE’s national office of suicide prevention in response to what it termed the “situation regarding suicide within the Ballyfermot community”.

The area, which has high unemployment rates, has had a female suicide rate three times the national average since 2015.

However it was the deaths of eight women in their 20s and early 30s over a 10-week period in 2019 that prompted the report.

Four of those who died between April and July 2019 were from Ballyfermot and the others were from neighbouring Clondalkin, Tallaght and Palmerstown. Several were young mothers.

“The lives lost of these young women has been deeply traumatic to the area,” says the report. Its aim is “not to make inferences about individual cases but identify potential risk factors to prevent future suicide clusters in Ballyfermot”.

Lone parents

Ballyfermot area, it says, is “significantly impacted by deprivation”, with high unemployment, low school-completion rates and a high proportion of lone parent families.

Through summer 2019 there was a “palpable sense of fear and anxiety” that further suicides would occur.

The report noted: “There was a feeling amongst research participants that the contagion effect may be stronger in young women…”

And while families must grieve and celebrate their loved ones as they choose, there was a concern “huge funerals” and tributes on social media could serve to “monumentalise suicide”.

Social media put enormous pressure on young women to “look good, be active and popular”.

Underlying trauma, particularly childhood trauma including domestic violence, alcohol or drug use, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or parental separation, were at the root of most anxiety/stress.

Current challenges included the housing crisis, with “many single parents . . . in and out of homelessness” while “almost all of the contributors referenced domestic violence as a key issue”, with few supports in the area.

Cocaine was identified as the “main problem drug”, “especially dangerous at the ‘coming down from it’ phase”, and likely to be used as a coping mechanism rather than a “root cause in itself” of distress.

Services in the area were described as “under-resourced or operating with waiting lists, particularly mental health, counselling and family support services”.

If you are affected by any issue in this article, please contact Pieta House (1800-247247) or the Samaritans (Freephone 116 123) or jo@samaritans.ie

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