Tuesday 12 December 2017

Official figures for suicides 'do not reflect true extent of crisis'

Edel O'Connell and Breda Heffernan

NEW figures recording a rise in suicide rates do not show the full scale of the frightening crisis, an expert warned yesterday.

As an official report showed a 7pc increase in suicides last year to 525 deaths, a campaigning TD has warned the real number could be closer to 600.

Fine Gael's Dan Neville, who is president of the Irish Association of Suicidology, said the numbers released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) failed to include 65 deaths of 'undetermined' cause

"These would have been recorded as suicide in most other western countries, so add that up and we're talking almost 600 suicide deaths," said Mr Neville.

"That's a very frightening figure."

He said the fact that coroners were reluctant to record a suicide verdict on death certificates was a major problem, including in cases of single vehicle road fatalities when all evidence points to suicide, but an open verdict is returned.

The 2011 figures show a spike in male suicides, which accounted for 84pc of all suicide deaths.

Mr Neville said the figure reflected "decades of neglect of suicide prevention" and the economic recession, which impacts on the levels of depression, anxiety and despair.

The figures are contained in the CSO's Vital Statistics for 2011, which analyse the numbers of births, deaths and marriages registered in that year.

Elsewhere, a study of suicide among men in rural Ireland found that mental illness, economic difficulties and marital separation were background factors.

The report's authors interviewed 26 rural men, ranging in age from 19 to 75 years, who had been admitted to hospital with mental health problems.

They were generally single, unemployed or small farmers struggling to make ends meet.

The men told how their only refuge was the pub and that drinking alcohol was the only "socially acceptable" coping mechanism in rural areas.

The report, a collaboration between UCD and Teagasc, suggested sporting and farming organisations could help reduce the stigma of mental illness in rural Ireland and provide initial support to those men struggling with mental health difficulties.

Self-harm

Joan Freeman, CEO and founder of Pieta House -- the suicide and self-harm centre -- said the centres were now seeing more children, those under 18, and also the 26 to 44 age group.

There has been a 40pc increase in the number of statutory bodies such as the HSE and Mental Health Services referring people to Pieta House.

Irish Independent

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