A study has found that while suicide in children is very rare in Ireland, rates have increased in recent years.

The study in the Irish Medical Journal contains the first examination of suicide rates in Ireland for those aged under 18.

It found that rates have increased from 9.3 to 13.5 per 100,000 in males and 2.4 to 5.1 per 100,000 in females over two decades.

The rise in suicide is seen most in the 15 to 17 age group.

The rates in those under 15 have remained static. The periods examined were 1993-98 and 2003-2008.

The authors said that while the number and rate of suicide deaths in childhood have increased across the decades, the trend is not statistically significant and a similar increase has been reported in other countries.

However, the authors call for better health services in the areas of bereavement support, early education and intervention.

They want a national review of school-based psycho-education and said the findings have implications for the protection of children under the Constitution.

The research team was from St Vincent's University Hospital, the School of Medicine at UCD and the School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science in UCD.

Professor Kevin Malone said that a wave of young people are currently moving through Irish society where suicide rates among their peers have increased substantially from those of their parents.

As a result, not only is suicide likely to remain the leading cause of death in these children in the next decade, suicide will also be the leading cause of peer bereavement.

The authors said that while suicide in children under-14 is rare, many more present with deliberate self-harm.