Stabilisation in suicidal behaviour - HSE report

Thursday 05 September 2013 23.08
Three major reports on suicide and self-harm have been published
Three major reports on suicide and self-harm have been published

A new report from the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention has said that latest figures would suggest a stabilisation in suicidal behaviour.

It also reveals that the county with the highest rate of suicide is Kerry, followed by Leitrim, Cork, Westmeath and the Tipperary North area.

The counties with the lowest rates are Longford, Dublin and Donegal.

The report urges caution in interpreting these figures, as small differences in numbers from one year to the next along with population change can be a factor.

It is one of three major reports on suicide and self-harm published today.

The annual report of the National Registry of Deliberate Self-Harm has said there were 12,010 deliberate self-harm presentations to hospitals by 9,483 individuals in 2012.

Despite two successive decreases in the rate of deliberate self-harm, the rate last year was still 12% higher than in 2007, the year before the economic recession.

While there was a significant decrease of 5% in the male rate of deliberate self-harm, the female rate increased by 1%.

The most common method of self-harm was overdose of medication, with women being overrepresented.

The peak rate for self-harm for females is 15-19 years and for males is it is among those aged 20-24 years.

The report says there was a remarkable similarity between the seasonality of female and male self-harm in that both genders showed similar peaks in self-harm in March, July and August.

A high proportion of suicides occur on Saturdays and Mondays.

The annual report of the National Office for Suicide Prevention says there were 495 deaths by suicide in 2010.

The report says a significant challenge for suicide prevention initiatives is the high proportion of deaths which result from hanging.

On RTE's Six One News, Professor Ella Arens-man, Director of the National Suicide Research Foundation, said risk factors among people had now been identified.

She said 307 cases of suicide in Cork city and county were analysed and comparisons were made among five different sub-groups.

In young men, the risk factors were high levels of unemployment, self-harm, men confronted with the loss of a friend or family member by suicide.

Professor Arensman said that men aged 40 and over had a very significant level of alcohol abuse and addiction, physical illness, and depression.

Common characteristics found among women at risk of taking their own lives were overuse of Benzodiazepines, prescribed and unprescribed, and a history of self-harm.

Young men at risk

Gerry Raleigh, Director of the Office, said the annual suicide figure was below the profile for most EU countries but the figure for young men was particularly high by international standards.

The highest rate is among 20 to 24-year-old males.

The report says that the county by county analysis of suicide rates in 2012 provides a strong evidence base of local factors that can have a significant bearing on suicidal behaviour in communities.

Such factors may include unemployment, economic deprivation, substance abuse, isolation and other social factors.

This evidence is being used to guide the allocation of resources targeted at high-risk communities.

The report notes that when examining changes in suicide rates over time, data needs to be combined across a number of years to determine true changes in trends.

There are also indications that deaths of "undetermined intent" may include hidden cases of suicide and a relatively high proportion of undetermined deaths are found in young people.

A third report, the Report of the Suicide Support and Information System, says that in 307 suicide cases it studied, 41% worked in the construction sector, 13% in the agricultural sector, nearly 9% were in sales, healthcare over 6% and education nearly 4%.

In terms of employment status, over 40% were in paid employment, 33% were unemployed, 11% were retired, nearly 7% were full-time students, 5% had a long-term disability and 3% were homemakers.

A history of self-harm was known in the majority of cases and nearly 70% had been diagnosed with depression.

The presence of alcohol was confirmed for 60% of cases.

Nine significant clusters were observed.

Two clusters were in Co Cork and one involved 13 cases of suicide over a three-month period.

The second involved seven cases of suicide over a two-month period.

The period covered September 2008 and June 2012.

For anyone affected by this report please contact any of the following:

Samaritans 1850-609090

Console 1800-201890

Aware 1890-303302

Pieta House 01-6010000

Keywords: suicide prevention