Last year, the European Child Safety Alliance (ECSA) found that Ireland had the second highest rate of male suicide in Europe among young people. The report also found that young Irish women under the age of nineteen were most likely to commit suicide, with Lithuania coming in second, and Norway in third. The rate is nineteen times higher than that of Greece, and more than doubles the European Union average.
Since then, Ireland has engaged in a number of suicide prevention campaigns to raise awareness about mental well-being and to promote the idea that it’s okay not to be okay. September saw various landmarks around the country light up orange in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day. The campaign was launched by Cycle Against Suicide, who introduced their initiative in order to “break the cycle,” and emphasise the importance of asking for help when it’s needed.
This month, Sherrie Gearheart is in Ireland doing the exact same thing. As Miss United Nations 2015, Gearheart spends most of her time travelling around the world acting as ambassador for the pageant, fostering international and culturally diverse friendships, and securing links between various communities around the globe. Although the event has no affiliation with international pageant systems or the United Nations, the occasion shares its delegate’s ideas concerning community-based projects and aims to leave a positive impact on various areas across the globe. It probably ensures its ambassadors look great while doing it too.
Today, Miss United Nations is travelling to various schools around the country where she will speak to students and government officials alike about the importance of addressing mental health issues; particularly depression and the risk of suicide. Gearheart will be joined by Ireland’s first Miss United Nations ambassador, sixteen year old Emma Gavin – who was recently crowned Ultimate Miss Worldwide Teen Ireland – and Brittany Gallarneau who holds the title of Ultimate Miss Worldwide Teen USA.[pullquote]The suicide rate in Ireland is nineteen times higher than that of Greece, and more than doubles the European Union average.[/pullquote]
But Miss United Nation’s trip won’t be all crowns, sceptres, and inspirational speeches for world peace. Rather, Sherrie Gearheart uses her platform to address those who might be afraid to ask for help. In 2010, she set up her suicide prevention and awareness charity, Live Out Loud (LOLC). Although the organisation is based in Chicago, its volunteers spend their time reaching out to millions of people around the world through a multitude of media platforms and visits from the charity’s founder. According to their mission statement, Live Out Loud dedicate themselves to serving those at risk of committing suicide through hosting seminars and events, initiating programmes, and saving lives “through education and awareness.”
Gearheart plans to promote her ideas of well-being through a programme called Core Character Development. As suicide prevention requires a thoroughly considered and multi-layered response, the programme focuses on building self-esteem, condemning bullying in schools, and acknowledging signs of depression in young people.[pullquote]Core Character Development focuses on building self-esteem, condemning bullying in schools, and acknowledging signs of depression in young people.[/pullquote]
As well as hosting seminars in schools, Live Out Loud also do lots of other good things like running events and workshops in the US and across the globe. The charity publish regular articles about suicide prevention in Action Magazine, operate worldwide support systems for individuals with mental health issues via text, email, phone calls, and social media sites, and recommend suitable counselling services and alternative hotlines for those who need them most. The group also hold regular fashion show fundraisers where its ambassadors get together, invite lots of guests, show-off some fashion, and raise a lot of money for their cause.
Live Out Loud has over 50 young spokespeople worldwide and continues to grow every year. Alongside it are Ireland’s own suicide prevention and mental health awareness organisations like Suicide or Survive (SOS), who aim to challenge the stigma associated with mental illness while also providing services to those at risk of taking their own lives, and Pieta House, who have been combating self-harm and suicide, and providing counselling services for almost a decade. Since 2006, Pieta House have helped over 18,000 individuals suffering with suicidal thoughts or engaging in self-harm. The group have centres all over the country, with almost 180 therapists serving hundreds of people every year.
When Gearheart is finished in Ireland, she’ll travel to Liberia to implement her suicide prevention scheme there too. Fair play, Miss United Nations.
Images via prolog.org