Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children

General Scheme of Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015: Discussion (Resumed)

9:30 am

Photo of Dan NevilleDan Neville (Limerick, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I congratulate the Minister on what he has done. I want to raise one issue. I want to highlight the importance of this in another area, that is, mental illness. Alcohol affects those who have some form of mental illness and it compounds the situation. Alcohol damages the brain cells and is a cause of certain mental illnesses. A recent study in one of our counties found that 36% had consumed alcohol at the time they had taken their life. Another study found that half of those under 35 who committed suicide in three countries had alcohol in their bloodstream as well. It is accepted internationally that alcohol plays a role in the area of self-harm and suicide. The World Health Organization states that a person who is currently abusing alcohol is eight times more likely to die by suicide than if he or she was not.

Mental ill health is a vast area, especially in young people. For example, the brains of those in their teens are developing and alcohol inhibits or affects that. There can be life-lasting effects if there is a high consumption of alcohol by young people whose bodies are in the development stage, and their brain is part of their bodies. That has been well researched internationally.

The area of those who have suicidal ideation but are inhibited in taking their lives is also well researched internationally. Taking alcohol can remove that inhibition. We often hear of persons who were in great form at a disco and they were never seen in better form, and they have drink taken. After a certain amount of drink, they look at taking their own lives and they are less inhibited. Often they go home and take their lives. We all are aware of such cases. People are very confused about why something like that would happen but a lot of it has to do with alcohol consumption by those who have a level of mental unwellness. There is a continuum of what constitutes mental illness. Not all mental unwellness is mental illness. This is an area in which we can help in assisting the work of suicide prevention organisations and the office of suicide prevention of the HSE. The Minister can, through this proposed legislation, contribute to assisting such work in trying to reduce the levels of suicide, self-harming and suicide ideation.


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