October 30, 2009

Publication: Irish Independent

Date: Friday, October 30, 2009 Page: 6

Author: Aldan O'Connor

Headline: Suicides rise by 40pc as over 100 people take their own lives

MORE than 100 people took their own lives in the first three months of this year – an increase of over 40pc on the same period in 2008. A total of 85 men and 21 women died by suicide between January and March, according to CSO figures. Young men still account for the vast majority of suicides and most are aged between 15 and 34.

Of the 21 women who took their own lives, a significant number were middle-aged. Last year, 276 people died on Irish roads but 424 people committed suicide in the same period. But the HSE warned yesterday that the CSO figureson suicide should be treated with "utmost caution" and were not an accurate picture of how many people took their own lives, Some of the suicide deaths recorded for the first quarter ofthis year may have occurred in2008 and official suicide figures will be not available until the end of the year.

An HSE spokesperson said that the most accurate figures showed that the rate of suicide decreased between 2003 and 2006. Provisional figures for 2007 and 2008 also indicated that fewer people were taking their own lives every year. Recession Suicide researcher Dr Ella Arensman said: "We have to be particularly careful with these figures published by the CSO today. However, we do feel that the speedy recession is one of the factors behind the increase in self-harm and possibly in suicide."

Research carried out by the National Suicide Research Foundation last year revealed the largest rise in the incidence of self-harm in six years. Ireland has the sixth-lowest rate of suicide in the EU, but we have the fourth-highest rate of suicide among young people behind Finland, Lithuania and Estonia. Minister of State for MentalHealth John Moloney has insisted that the Government will continue to fund suicide prevention, despite unprecedented pressure on public finances. He told a forum on suicide prevention last month that he was in advanced discussions with Government over plans toraise €700m through the sale of property that was used by psychiatric hospitals that are due to close.

Fine Gael TD and suicide prevention campaigner, Dan Neville, said there is clear evidence that suicide is linked to unemployment and financial disaster. With just over €3m given to the National Office for Suicide Prevention, Mr Neville wants the Government to provide at least €10m to meet the crisis.