July 20, 2012

Research highlights alcohol link to suicide •

68% knew someone who had taken or tried to take their own life by Evelyn Ring Over two thirds of people who took their own lives in the past three years knew a family member or friend who had taken their own life or tried to.

The research by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) also found the vast majority of suicides happened within 12 months of experiencing a friend or family member taking their own lives.

The foundation's Suicide Support and Information System, to be launched today by Kathleen Lynch, the minister for mental health, looked at 190 suicides in Cork between Sept 2008 and 2009.

It found that: • 78% abused alcohol in the year before they died; • 35% had abused both alcohol and drugs; • 81% had been in contact with their GP or mental health services in the years before they died; • 56% had used prescrip- tion medicine in the year K'ior to their death; 80% of those who took their own lives were male; • 52% had attempted suicide in the year prior to their death; • 68% were known to have experienced suicidal behaviour (fatal and/or non-fatal) by family members or friends at some point in their lives.

NSRF research director Dr Ella Arensman saidthe finding underlined theneed for suicide bereave-ment support services tobe on the alert for vulner-able family members.

The findings stronglysupported the need to re-duce access to alcohol andto increase people's aware-ness of the link betweenalcohol misuse/abuseand the development ofdepression and relatedmental health problems.

"Ireland has been effec-tive in implementing thesmoking ban. Why can'twe be effective in reducingaccess to alcohol?" shesaid.

Dr Arensman suggestedreducing the number ofoutlets where people couldbuy alcohol, or includea warning on alcoholthat excessive use couldcause serious mental prob-lems.

Just over 30% received apsychiatric assessment pri-or to their death by suicide— 61% were diagnosedwith a mood disorder, 13%with an anxiety disorder,9% with alcohol depen-dence, and 9% withschizophrenia.

Among the deceased,56% used prescriptionmedication for mentalhealth problems in the yearbefore they died.

However, 46% did notcomply with the instruc-tions.

"These findings under-line the need for mentalhealth services to reviewtheir treatment policy andinterventions for peopleat risk of suicide,' saidDr ArKathleen Lynch: Will launchthe extensive report today.