Study highlights need for suicide prevention strategies for young men

Males aged between 16 and 20 are at heightened risk of suicide, according to new research.

Charity group 3Ts said the research by Kevin Malone of UCD and St Vincent’s University Hospital with three other academics, showed there was an urgent need to develop suicide prevention and mental health strategies for boys in the 12- to 15-year-old age bracket.

Looking at suicide figures in Ireland and Britain in the 18-35 age group from 2000 to 2006, it concludes that “an accelerated pattern of risk up to the age of 20... which levels off moderately thereafter was uncovered, thus identifying a heretofore unreported age-related epidemiological transition for suicide”.

“The current reporting of suicide in five-year age bands may conceal age-related periods of risk for suicide. This may have implications for suicide prevention programmes for young adults under age 21.

“Perhaps ageing in years towards 21 simply coincides with the peak age of onset for major psychiatric disorders such as depression or psychosis in males.

“We were unable to explore this possibility, due to the aggregation of data across age ranges of possible confounds such as mental illness and alcohol use in the existing international datasets.

“Clearly, ageing from 18 to 24 is a high-risk age period for overt manifestation of psychiatric pathology of sufficient severity to warrant in-patient care.”

Through the use of dis-aggregated suicide mortality datasets from the UK and Ireland, taking in almost 12,000 suicide deaths, the researchers conclude that “future reporting of national suicide rates in years, as opposed to five-year age bands, will facilitate more in-depth research and understanding of possible age-related periods of increased suicide risk in young adults, where an epidemiological transition is apparent for young men before versus after age 21”.

The research is published in the Cambridge Journal of Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences.

3Ts chairman Noel Smyth said: “These findings come at an interesting time, as we have just voted for a change in legislation through the children’s referendum to afford increased protection to the rights of the child.

“It is vital that increased suicide prevention education and resources are provided for children at risk.”


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