Suicide claims 1,563 lives in 3-year period

Kerry, Offaly, and Cork City have the highest suicide rates in the country with figures 50% higher than the national average.

An analysis of deaths by suicide officially recorded between 2009 and 2011 also shows suicide rates in Laois and Westmeath and the South-East, including Wexford, Waterford, and Tipperary, above average.

Some of the lowest suicide rates in the country are found in several parts of Dublin.

The Government was accused of not taking suicide seriously last month after it emerged the key post of director at the National Office for Suicide Prevention remains unfilled more than a year after the resignation of Geoff Day.

According to statistics compiled by the CSO, 1,563 people in the Republic took their own lives between 2009 and 2011, a national suicide rate of 11.4 deaths per 100,000 population. In contrast, a total of 636 people were killed in traffic accidents over the same period.

While there has been a strong downward trend in road fatalities over the past decade, the number of deaths by suicide has shown an increase since 2007, so that they are now at almost two-and-a-half times the level of road fatalities.

Official figures show there were 552 suicides in 2009, falling to 486 in 2010 and rising again to 525 last year.

Kerry has the highest suicide rate in the country with 80 suicides in the past three years, equating to an annual rate of 18.3 deaths per 100,000 people. It is almost three times higher than the area with the lowest suicide rate — Fingal in north Dublin, which has a suicide rate of 6.2 deaths.

Offaly had the second highest rate with 41 deaths, equating to an annual suicide rate of 17.8 deaths.

Sixty-one deaths by suicide were recorded in Cork City over the three-year period giving a rate of 17.1 deaths per 100,000 population — the third highest in the Republic. However, the total of 26 suicides in the city in 2009 was halved by 2011 when the number of deaths by suicide decreased to 13 — a rate which would push Cork City below the national average.

There were 149 cases of suicide in Co Cork (excluding the city area) between 2009 and 2011 — a suicide rate of 12.4%.

On a provincial basis, Munster has the highest suicide rate at 13.8 deaths followed by Connacht (11.9), Leinster (10.2) and Ulster (9.5). Galway and Dublin have the lowest suicide rate of all the major cities at 8.4 deaths, although the figure rises to 10.6 per 100,000 population in the Dublin City Council area. A total of 319 suicides were recorded in the capital over the three-year period.

Asked by Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman, Billy Kelleher, earlier this week to respond to criticism by the suicide prevention agency, Turn the Tide of Suicide, that the Government had failed to tackle the problem, junior health minister Kathleen Lynch, said she recently held a “very open and frank” meeting with the charity.

She said a special allocation of €35m was provided for mental health services this year, primarily to strengthen community mental health teams and to implement Reach Out, the State strategy for action on suicide prevention.

“It is widely accepted that suicide is a complex issue and that there’s no easy or single intervention that will bring a guarantee of success,” said Ms Lynch.

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