Suicidal ideation and self-harm are at crisis levels in dedicated female homeless services, according to the homeless charity Novas.
The charity is this afternoon warning the Oireachtas housing committee about the “staggering” levels of self-harm and attempted suicide in its services.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the charity’s communication and development coordinator, Dr Una Burns said staff prevented 26 serious suicide attempts in the past 10 months.
“The women we work with have very complex needs relating to their mental health and addiction and it sometimes can be very difficult for them to access supports,” she said.
“Because of this, we have seen a huge spike in the number of women experiencing suicidal ideation, self-harm and suicide attempts.
“At just one of our services in a ten-month period last year, our staff intervened on 26 occasions in very serious suicide attempts.
“It is extraordinary and we certainly consider it a crisis among the people we support – and not just in our women’s services, in all our services, but more acutely felt in our women’s services.”
She said it is essential that women experiencing homelessness have access to mental health and addiction supports – as well as a clear pathway out of homelessness.
“Access to mental health and addiction supports and the standard of accommodation you receive while in temporary accommodation is really key in the short term,” she said.
“Then, in the long-term, of course we need more options around housing and more housing-first options that are dedicated to women and understand coercive behaviour.
“That often is a reason that women’s long-term options fail and they end up back in it because they are subject to coercive control and gender-based violence when they move out. So long-term dedicated accommodation for women. That support is really important.”
Dr Burns said a better standard of homeless accommodation is essential for anyone who has experienced trauma.
“It is very difficult for people with complex needs or with challenging behaviour to share with a stranger,” she said. “It often deepens their suspicions and makes their behaviour more difficult.
“It is difficult enough for any adult who doesn’t know somebody to be sharing a room with them – never mind when they might have deeply difficult issues and personally traumatising issues they might have to deal with themselves.”
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If you are affected by any of the issues discussed in this article, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123.