Irish coroner Terence Casey believes that the new tougher drink-driving laws are leading to more suicides among older men who live in isolated rural communities and no longer drive to the pub for company.
The coroner said that although the new strict laws on drink driving may be keeping the numbers of people dying on the roads down, it is now leading to more suicides as people become isolated.
He told the Irish Examiner, “I believe this [new legislation] is part of the reason more older men are taking their own lives. These people are often widowed, or single, and living alone. They can’t go to the local pub for a pint because they’re afraid they’ll be caught for drink driving.
They were used to going out for one or two pints with friends, but are not doing that any more as one pint could put a person over the limit.
"With the closure of post offices, shops and creameries, there’s a huge gap in relation to social contact in rural Ireland. The new drink-driving laws are creating further isolation and driving suicide rates up."
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Casey is the coroner for a rural south County Kerry area. In 2011 there were three road deaths and 11 suicides in his area. The majority of deaths were male.
Of these 11 suicide victims, four were over the age of 60, two were between 31 and 40 and two were between the ages of 22 and 30.
Inquests showed that alcohol was a factor in the road deaths but no signs of alcohol appeared in most of the suicide victims’ reports.
Between 2005 and 2011 there were 67 suicides in south County Kerry, 41 of these were over the age of 40.
Ireland has a poor record with mental health and suicide. In fact, the Global Health Survey for 2011 showed that one in four Irish people have had a personal experience of mental illness or suicide in the past year.
A media campaign is now being launched to prevent suicides. This will be similar to the massive nationwide campaign against road deaths.
Deirdre Fee, a businesswoman and former nurse, is leading a project to raise awareness in Kerry.
Following a public meeting in Killarney, the organization Console will offer suicide prevention and intervention services as well as support for bereaved families, advice, and help in dealing with inquests.