Teen Suicide Services Slam 'Cruel' Funding Cut

Teen-Line, a suicide-prevention charity that helps young people in times of crisis, has slammed a “cruel” HSE funding cut that it fears will affect its ability to deliver services to teens at risk of self-harm.

At the beginning of March the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) revealed that it is to cut funding to a number of mental health support groups, including Teen-Line, by up to 12.5%. These cuts come despite the fact that, between January 2008 and January 2009, Teen-Line saw a 100% increase in calls to its emergency helpline for suicidal young people. And the fear is that with the ongoing recession and subsequent mounting unemployment, the numbers of young people in need of immediate assistance will only continue to rise.

Speaking to the Southside People newspaper, the Chairman of Teen-Line Ireland, Eddie Mahony, explained that there has been a further 25% increase in calls to the helpline since the beginning of December 2008. “As it stands, we can barely cope with demand and if the HSE’s decision to reduce funding to support groups is implemented then clearly many people will be negatively affected as a result,” Mr Mahony said.

Mr Mahony explained that the organisation receives approximately €80,000 a year from the HSE under a three-year service level agreement. Part of this funding is spent on the salaries of two of Teen-Line’s senior full-time staff. Mr Mahony says that now, because of the 12.5% cut in HSE funding, Teen-Line is “in danger of losing these two people at this stage.”

Mr Mahony said that Teen-Line “have also been told by the NSOP that there could be further cuts on the way.” Mr Mahony added that it was unacceptable that an organisation that has helped save lives and also money for the HSE was now being targeted with cuts. “We are doing the HSE’s job here,” he said. “There was a gap in the services when Teen-Line was founded and we identified this gap. We are all volunteers and we have saved the HSE millions of euros over the last number of years, not to mention the amount of lives we have saved.”

Teen-Line is the brainchild of Tallaght local Maureen Bolger who lost her 16-year-old son, Darren, to suicide. Ms Bolger said the current recession is affecting large numbers of young people, despite the common perception that it was predominantly having an impact on adults who are losing their jobs.

“With the recession on they actually should be supporting us with more funding instead of cutting it,” she told Southside People. “More people are calling our helplines now and young people are telling us that a member of their family has lost their job.

“They are taking on board the worries of their parents in many cases with the effect that they are becoming anxious themselves. Money should not come into it when you are trying to save lives.”

Other suicide prevention charities that could also facing funding cuts include Console and Aware, both of which have also reported significant increases in the number of vunreable people calling their helplines in the recent months.

Paul Kelly, Chairman of the Action of Suicide Alliance, an Irish charity that works to raise awareness of the problem of suicide in Ireland, has said publicly that "The NOSP couldn’t have picked a worse time to cut funding to mental health groups. The dismal economic climate is having a massive effect on people who are turning to support groups for help now more than ever. Lives could be lost as a result". 

Further Information

The Teen-Line service operates on Wednesday from 3 - 6pm, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9pm to 12pm and on Sunday from 8pm to 11pm. The number is 1800 833 634.

For more information log on to www.teenline.ie