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Posted 05 August 2010

“Please talk” suicide prevention initiative to reach 250,000 college students throughout Ireland

With the support of HSE funding through the Strategic Innovation Fund, the student-based suicide prevention initiative, Please Talk has gone nationwide today (05 Aug 2010) to reach 250,000 students across 27 colleges throughout Ireland.
In response to the facts that 15-24 year-olds are the most vulnerable age category at risk of suicide, and Ireland having the 4th highest rate of youth suicide in Europe and worrying numbers of young people self-harming, the Please Talk initiative was originally set up by students at UCD in 2007 to reach out to students suffering from anxiety.
Students and staff from 27 colleges throughout Ireland, as well as professional agencies and charities including the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention, the National Association of Suicidology, and Headstrong, attended a special conference at the UCD Astra Hall in Belfield to launch the service nationwide and to discuss the mental health issues faced by young people in Ireland.
According to Geoff Day, Director of the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention, who spoke at the conference, “It is critical to get youth groups involved in tackling the issue and this is why the HSE is providing national support for the Please Talk campaign. The simple notion of getting people to talk is, in itself, a protective factor against suicide.  Encouraging students to seek appropriate help through the sign-posting of services on the Please Talk website will save lives.”
The Please Talk initiative has two components.  The first is the campaign's message that 'talking is a sign of strength', which urges students to talk to someone if they're having problems at home, at college or anywhere else.  Many people suffering from anxiety hold their fears and problems to themselves.  Please Talk aims to break that silence and any lingering taboos that prevent students from reaching out for help. The second component of the campaign, the Please Talk website,, highlights the extensive supports available to students on campuses throughout Ireland, as well as other external information and services.
“Suicide has a devastating effect on families, friends and communities. As students we were touched by the tragedy of suicide and wished to do something that would empower others to help their friends in need.  By promoting Please Talk we aim to make students aware of campus services so that, if it comes to a time of crisis, they will know where to turn for help,” says Barry Colfer, former president of the UCD students’ union and one of the founders of Please Talk.
To-date, Please Talk has been coordinated and developed by a team of four students and recent graduates.  It relies heavily on close working relationships with student support staff on campuses such as the student advisory services, students' unions, counselling services and chaplaincy services, as well as national bodies such as the CSSI (the Confederation of Students Services in Ireland), CN3 (Chaplains Network at third level), and the USI (Union of Students in Ireland).  The Please Talk campaign organisers are also aware of the importance of fostering and developing relationships with groups and organisations in the mental health sector in Ireland.
“We are very excited to be establishing an organisation made up of key student support staff, students, and mental health professionals from around the country to oversee the development and activities of the campaign.”  Colfer added.  “We are considering what options we have with regard to establishing a legal entity for the project and we’re working hard to establish relationships, and to form partnerships with other organisations and individuals in the mental health sector.”
So far, students and staff have responded very positively to the Please Talk campaign.  Mental health issues, anxiety, depression and despair are experienced throughout society but are particularly prevalent among 15-24 year olds.  The concentration of this age group on college campuses means that pastoral staff and college friends can and do help when they know a student is in need. 
The objective of Please Talk is to make sure students in need reach out for the help and care that is at hand.


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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