Hundreds more suicides 'not due to the recession'
Published 14/03/2014 | 02:30
THE recession may have contributed to hundreds of suicides – but it does not cause somebody to take their own life, an Oireachtas committee has been told.
Dr Ella Arensman, director of the National Suicide Research Foundation, said she investigated if the recession had impacted on the level and the trend of suicide and self-harm between 2008-2012.
She explained: "The number of extra suicide cases ranged from 305 to 560. For self-harm, there was an increase of 12pc, again with the highest increase in men (20pc).
"The number of extra self-harm presentations ranged from 6,464 to 8,862 cases," she told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.
The reason for the huge range of possible suicides is because the coroner cannot always determine if a death was an accident, or death by suicide. This is particularly the case if a suicide note is not found.
However, Dr Arensman pointed out that while unemployment was not a causal factor for suicide, if someone loses their job and may already have vulnerabilities, it could be the last straw.
The additional in-depth information is that among the people who died by suicide, nearly half had a history of drug abuse and 42pc also had a history of self-harm.
"Unemployment may have further triggered the underlying vulnerabilities and quite severe mental health issues, added Dr Arensman.
She was among a delegation of various bodies involved in suicide research and prevention who discussed a report on the issue submitted to the committee by Senator John Gilroy, highlighting the impact of the recession.
Dr Arensman added: "Comparing trends in suicide in Ireland to other neighbouring countries, remarkably Scotland is the only neighbouring country which has not seen a significant increase in suicide during the recession. In fact, suicide rates in Scotland have decreased by 18pc between 2002 and 2012."
Joan Freeman, founder of Pieta House, which offers free care to people in mental distress, across the country, criticised the amount of time organisations like hers spent "sitting and talking" with the National Office for Suicide Prevention.
Staff in Pieta House, she said, were at the cliff edge, holding the hands of people in danger of stepping over and they were the people who knew how to run the service.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) told the committee that while members of the general public may perceive that the incidence of suicide in Ireland was increasing, the data did not support this.