January 14, 2010

Lost Generation take their lives, and deaths, into their own hands As suicide rates resemble those experienced in the Eighties, medical experts agree that the economic declineis a strong factor, young men are  committing suicide at a rate akin to that seen during the economic recession of the Eighties, indicating that many people were driven to despair and chose to take their own lives rather than emigrate or seek a new direction.

Garda statistics and indicators about deaths that would otherwise be referred to as "misadventure" suggest that more than 700 people committed suicide in 2009.

Aside from the widely reported cases in which developers and businessmen killed themselves after suffering financial ruin, gardai andemergency service professionals say they encountered anunusually high number ofyoung men committing suicide over the past 12 months.

In October last year, 31men, most of them in their 20s and 30s, killed themselves,while two women, again both young, committed suicide.

The worst month for suicides last year was March,with at least 54 incidences.

Last week Meath CountyCoroner John Lacy said the increasing number of suicides was disturbing. "That is an unfortunate development overthe last few years," he told the Meath Chronicle recently.
"A few years ago, therewould be a ratio of between 60per cent and 70 per cent roaddeaths to a smaller number ofdeaths by suicide. Now that trend has been totally reversed and the vast number ofinquests are dominated by suicide cases.

"I sometimes think thatsome people may become disconnected from their families through alcohol or other addiction problems and, of course, it is very distressing for families when this happens." Traditionally suicide levels rise towards the year's end,but there was no marked increase in November and December last year.

Again, gardai and professionals usually encounter aspate of suicides at New Year,but that didn't happen last year. There was only one suicide on New Year's Day.

Official statistics are notavailable, but gardai encountered just over 600 cases of clear suicide during the year.

Just over 100 people who drowned were not logged as suicides, and there were asmall number of deaths officially logged as "accidents"in which gardai strongly suspect suicide.

Gardai also encountered cases of overdoses by drugaddicts which they also suspect were deliberate.

The signs that suicides were rising were already evident from early in the year.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office showed that 85 men and 21 women committed suicide in the first quarter of 2009, a 40 per cent increase on the first quarter of 2008.

Officially the number ofsuicides in 2008 was 424, butmany suicides are not officially recognised. Some Coroner's Courts refuse to return verdicts of suicide and, gardaisay, many "accidents" or "misadventure" deaths are actually suicides. Anecdotally, gardai and the emergency services all experienced unusual numbers of suicides in 2008.

One Garda source said that,from speaking to colleagues around the country, 2009 did appear to be a year where the economic woes of the country led to an increase in suicides.

He said encountering suicidecases was always very difficult, and that all his colleagues believed that Ireland needed more and better psychiatricand counselling services which could prevent at least some suicides.

Research already available on suicide and self-harm indicated last year that there had been a substantial rise in self-harm cases presenting at hospitals and clinics. In 2008,12,000 self-harm cases presented, the largest number since statistics have been kept.

Senior medical professionals said there was no doubt the onset of economic recession was a factor.

Fine Gael's Dan Neville, acampaigner for greater psychiatric services, pointed outthat the State spends 10 times more on road safety than it does on suicide prevention.

Despite years of campaigning by Deputy Neville and others, the State has not provided out-of-hours psychiatric or social work services. The vast majority of suicides take place in the evenings or at night when no professional counselling is available.