This week my Taxi Talk is on Mental Health in Ireland. Suicide is one of the biggest worldwide killers. Over one million people die from suicide each year worldwide. Not surprisingly studies show suicide kills more people than homicide and war combined.
The latest CSO figures illustrate an alarming number of deaths by suicide in Ireland. 29.4% (459) of deaths in Ireland are from suicide. Suicide is also the largest cause of death for 15-44 year olds in Ireland.
Everyone needs to look after their mental health as well as minding others around us. Derek Devoy, a taxi driver is doing just that. Derek set up Taxiwatch in 2014. Taxiwatch is an organisation made up of a group of volunteer taxi drivers fully trained by the HSE Ireland in Safetalk and Asist Suicide Prevention Training. Derek and his fellow taxi drivers patrol the quays bridges and streets of Ireland in their taxis and lookout for people who may be in distress or feel suicidal.
Derek told me he himself suffered from depression “I had been suffering with depression and wanted to end my life, after I was in a car crash in 2010 when I was rear ended by a drunk driver. I knew nothing about depression and I didn’t realise that I had it. I was crying all day every day, I spent 8 months in my bedroom and I couldn’t leave it I wasn’t able.”
Derek eventually went back to work but after another very hard day he decided to take his first step in recovery and go to the doctor. After some time Derek began to feel better. He said “I went back to work and on my first night back I came across two people one hour apart on a bridge contemplating suicide I spoke with them and got them to safety. I then went and done two course with the HSE called SAFETALK AND ASIST, they teach you how to speak and spot someone in distress. I then went and ask 15 taxi drivers to join me and they did.”
Since then Taxiwatch has went from strength to strength. Derek said, “I have being contacted by taxi companies from the UK and all over Ireland about my initiative and we are glad to help them. Taxiwatch.ie is now in KILKENNY WATERFORD ENNIS AND CLONMEL and we hope to do cork and Limerick next”. Since the organisation began in 2014 Taxiwatch has had 94 interventions with people who wanted to take their own life.
I myself, never realised it until I began my Taxi Talk blog but taxi drivers are always there for a chat or to listen. Derek says “Everybody that gets into a taxi tells us their problems and now all our taxis have our signs in the cars saying we are Taxiwatch and you can talk to us about depression or suicide. And they generally do or they will take a card and call me 10 mins after they get out.”
I myself get into taxis weekly and sometimes after a tough day the unfortunate (but always willing) taxi man hears all about it. I am yet to get into a taxi were I haven’t received advice or just a great life tip from the taxi drivers of Ireland.
Today is #mindyourselfie – which has been established by Walk in my Shoes. Walk in my Shoes is an organisation dedicated to creating awareness of mental health, educating schools, communities and colleges across Ireland.
So here is my #mindyourselfie
Organisations such as Taxiwatch remind us that we are not alone and there is always someone there to listen and help.
If you are affected by this article, please call the Samaritans on 116 123
Or call Taxiwatch 24 hour helpline on 0876665050