‘Positive signs’ in suicide rate fall-off

The number of suicides in Ireland is decreasing, having risen considerably between 2007 and 2012.

Anne O'Connor: Spike in the rate of suicide during the recession.

The HSE published its National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) 2016 report yesterday. It is based on data from 2014 and refers to provisional information for 2015 and 2016.

“In 2014, there were 486 confirmed suicide deaths in Ireland. Provisional data for 2015 and 2016 suggests a decreasing trend in Ireland’s suicides rates, since then, which is a very positive sign,” said Anne O’Connor, the national director of the HSE’s mental-health division.

Assistant director John Meehan said the new trend follows a spike in the number of suicides during the recession, when a large number of males took their own life.

“There was an increase in the suicide rate in Ireland between 2007 and 2012. This can be wholly attributed to the increase in the rate of male suicide. Data from 2012 onwards indicates a levelling off of this,” said Mr Meehan. In 2011 there were 554 deaths from suicide.

In relation to 2014 figures, the latest confirmed data, the vast majority of suicides were still male deaths.

Some 399 of 486 suicides (82.1%) were men. This high male-to-female ratio has been a consistent feature of deaths by suicide over the years.

Men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women.

In relation to the age profiles of both genders, the highest rates of suicide were observed among 45-54-year-olds, and the lowest rates were recorded among those aged 65 and over.

Ms O’Connor said a holistic approach to mental health, right across the board, from the family to the community, has the greatest impact in preventing suicide.

“Evidence shows that no single intervention would prevent suicide. A number of strategies in place and at a population, community, and individual level, will have the greatest impact,” she said.

Mr Meehan said the NOSP has been working with An Garda Síochána so that frontline staff can be “suicide aware”.

“Our continued collaboration with colleagues in An Garda Síochána, in Templemore, will enhance the ability of training gardaí to become suicidal aware. It is not only gardaí that need to do this. We need to work with other frontline staff and have conversations,” said Mr Meehan.

One successful intervention, rolled out last year by NOSP, was the #littlethings mental health campaign.

Ads encouraging people to talk, have tea with a friend, exercise, and reduce alcohol consumption appeared across all types of media, including at the All-Ireland final in Croke Park.

“An evaluation of the #littlethings campaign found that after viewing the ads, 35% of respondents did something to look after their mental health and 17% talked to their GP about how they were feeling, and that’s an important message,” said Mr Meehan.

Last year over €11.8m was invested in suicide prevention — a 19% increase on 2015.

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