Saturday 16 December 2017

Suicide toll likely to be far higher than official 1,409 figure

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

SUICIDE figures would be even higher if many deaths that have been classed as being of "undetermined intent" were included.

Latest figures show that 1,409 people took their lives in the 2007-2009 period.

But this does not take account of the 495 people whose deaths were recorded as being of "undetermined intent" -- it is believed that many of these were suicides.

The Government gave a €1m increase to the National Office for Suicide Prevention in the Budget in recognition of the increased pressure that the economic crisis was putting on people.

According to the Central Statistics Office, there were 195 deaths in 2009 where the intention was undetermined, including:

  • Forty-five people who died from drowning.
  • Thirty-eight people who died from drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methadone.
  • Six people who died by falling, jumping or possibly being pushed from a high place.
  • Three people who died from falling, lying or running in front of or into a moving object.

This category does not include those where the intent of a person was clear. For example, there are around 153 drownings every year, but the CSO categorised 45 of them in 2009 as intentional. It included another 45 drownings in 2009 in its list of "events of undetermined intent". A CSO spokesman said particular care had to be taken here.

"Drowning would be one of those where you don't know unless you were given concrete information from another source. Even to be told they are in a state of depression isn't enough. Somebody could slip into the water or jump in.'' Men accounted for 39 of the 45 undetermined drownings in 2009. More than three-quarters of those whose deaths were of undetermined intent (177) were male.

A total of 527 people took their own lives in 2009. There were 181 undetermined deaths in 2008 (along with 424 suicides). And there were 119 undetermined deaths in 2007 (458 suicides).


Fine Gael mental health spokesman Dan Neville, who is president of the Irish Association of Suicidology, said the number of undetermined deaths in 2009 was the highest for many years.

"We can't put a figure on it --but we would reckon that maybe 40pc of them are suicides," he said.

Mr Neville said it was recognised in international research that economic recessions increased the risk of suicide, but there were other factors such as drugs and alcohol.

As part of its efforts to reduce the number of suicides, the Government is running a "See Change" campaign to stamp out the stigma about admitting to mental health problems.

Anyone experiencing problems can contact the Samaritans on a 24-hour basis at 1850 60 90 90 or by emailing

Irish Independent

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