independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Suicide risk for men under 21 is four times higher

* Hospitals turned away people who later died by suicide n Study urges national policy of screening for depression

YOUNG men under 21 years of age are at four times the risk of suicide and many are experiencing bullying and humiliation in schools and colleges.

A worrying report says Irish youths have the fourth highest suicide rate in Europe, and the numbers taking their own lives is rising.

And the findings also show that the emergency services and gardai are often ill equiped to deal with people who are feeling suicidal, with instances of hospital emergency departments turning people away who went on to die by suicide.

The 'Suicide in Ireland 2003-2008' study has found evidence to suggest that as many as half of all suicides happen in clusters, where there is a series of deaths in one location over a short time period.

Of 104 cases of young people taking their own lives that were studied, 15 were associated with other suicides, with 10 part of suicide clusters.

Professor Kevin Malone, from the Department of Psychiatry in St Vincent's University Hospital and UCD, interviewed 104 families affected by suicide, outlining their experiences of how their loss was dealt with by emergency services.

He also analysed data from Ireland and the UK and found as many as 722 people a year took their own lives here, far more than previously believed.

One in six people aged under 21 who took their own lives experienced bullying. Eight of the 36 under 21 years of age had experienced an assault in the six months prior to death.

The report also found an "accelerated and highly significant" four-fold rate of increased risk among males aged 16-20 compared to after 20.

Around 113 young men under 20 take their own lives every year, compared to 28 aged 20 and over. There was a two-fold trend for women, with 12.7 per year compared with 7.4.

INTERVENTION

The report says that existing suicide intervention and prevention programmes may be "missing the boat" by not focusing on school-age young people.

People in trouble express suicidal thoughts to their peers, and a national policy of screening for depression should be considered.

Other findings include:

* One child under 18 dies by suicide every 18 days.

* The numbers taking their own lives has increased. In 1993, 9.3 men and 2.4 women per 100,000 population died. This rose to 13.5 and 5.1 in 2008.

* Alcohol and mental illness play a role – alcohol is a factor in 50pc of all cases, with 40pc of the victims having made a previous suicide attempt.

* Violence, muggings and bullying are also contributory factors.

* Suicide prevention is under-resourced with "limited support" for research.

* Some who went on to take their own lives had been arrested by gardai to "teach them a lesson".

* Some families said gardai they dealt with after a suicide did not seem trained – in one case the family "ended up consoling the young garda".

* A family described a garda dealing with them after a suicide as "rude and derogatory" blaming it on "young people and drugs".

The report, launched at the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, also found that families had a negative experience of dealing with gardai and the health and education services in the aftermath of a tragedy.

The study was funded by the 3Ts charity, which is chaired by solicitor Noel Smyth, who said the Government should establish an independent agency to tackle suicide, noting that the Road Safety Authority had reduced road fatalities through a concerted campaign which was yielding results.

The project also identifies the possible extent of suicide clusters. "I think this has been previously under-estimated," Prof Malone said. "Our findings suggest that up to 50pc of our under-18 suicide deaths may be part of couplets or clusters."

Irish Independent

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