A pioneering self-harm treatment programme has reduced hospital bed stays for suicidal patients by a startling 99.5pc.
The revelation came as the Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed it now has 17 teams nationwide trained in the DBT 'Endeavour' system, which are targeted on self-harm and suicide 'black spots'.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) was developed in the US and has been hugely successful in reducing the suicide rate among its patients by 50pc as well as reducing in-patient admissions by 75pc.
Ireland is now the first country worldwide that has decided to fund the roll-out of DBT-trained teams under its 'Endeavour' initiative.
The decision came after Ireland's self-harm and suicide rates rocketed over the past decade.
New figures show that Limerick now has the highest rates of self-harm for both men and women in Ireland – at almost double the national average.
The HSE confirmed that in its latest study, compiled in 2012/2013, Limerick had 469 male cases per 100,000 population compared to just 107 cases per 100,000 population in Galway county.
High rates for male self-harm were also found in Louth, Kerry and Cork.
South Dublin has one of the highest rates for self-harm among women, in contrast to Monaghan, which had Ireland's lowest rate.
In Cork city, the male rate for self-harm was almost twice the national average while the female rate in Cork was 43pc above the national average.
The DBT system was developed by Prof Marsha Linehan who paid tribute to the Government, the HSE and the National Office for Suicide Prevention for taking such proactive steps to deal with the problem.
She described the treatment programme as helping patients to accept who they are, undertake changes they feel are necessary and, critically, to learn life skills to cope with the issues troubling them.
Crucially, it involves patient families in the process as well as offering a more co-ordinated agency approach to the problem.
DBT has already had an astonishing impact in Ireland.
Its pilot programme began in Ireland in 2010/11 with a special study group of 12 patients set up in the North Lee area of Cork. It was found that, before undertaking DBT treatment, the 12 patients accounted for a total of 207 hospital bed days between them.
Over the same period, after the conclusion of DBT treatment, they accounted for just a single hospital bed day – a reduction of 99.5pc over a comparable period.
HSE psychology manager Daniel Flynn said DBT teams were now deliberately targeting areas that suffer from Ireland's highest rates of self-harm.