527 people died by suicide last year

THE country’s economic problems have contributed to the single biggest surge in suicides ever recorded in Ireland, according to a report.

The National Office for Suicide Prevention’s (NOSP) annual report for 2009 has confirmed that last year a total of 527 people officially died by suicide.

The figure – 24% higher than the 424 deaths in 2008 which were counted before a change in Central Statistics Office (CSO) categorisations – is the single biggest year-on-year rise ever recorded.

When a further 195 lost lives classified by inquests for a variety of reasons as “undetermined” with no third party being sought are included, the total number of deaths reaches 722 – the equivalent of two deaths every day.

The HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention said the “dramatic change” was in line with the international trend of suicide levels increasing during a recession.

The confirmation came just a day after it was revealed the taxpayer will have to pump an estimated €210 million every week into Anglo Irish Bank this year to cover its losses.

Last year, Government spent just €5.6m funding 30 separate suicide prevention projects, with an additional €1m now being made available from the dormant accounts as part of a “firm commitment” to address the issue.

However, this new €6.6m sum is still 5,000 times less than the €31 billion paid to the banking sector since the economic crisis began.

When the figures were first highlighted by the CSO at the end of June, the official statistics body said the substantial rise was linked to spiralling debt, marriage breakdown and depression.

The conclusion has been repeatedly highlighted by groups such as 1Life, a 24-hour help-line manned by specialist counsellors and psychotherapists which was set up last October by Console and Turning the Tide of Suicide (3Ts) and is receiving more than 100 calls a day.

Similar statements have been made by suicide intervention centre Pieta House, which last month reported a 60% year-on-year rise in children being referred to the group with suicidal tendencies.

Both groups insist that due to coroners court issues, the true annual suicide figure is at least 100 to 200 people higher than what is being officially stated.

According to the NOSP’s annual report figures, 422 men and 105 women are known to have died by suicide last year.

One in three of all male deaths by external cause are known to have been suicides. The 20-24 age group remains the most at-risk time for men – with 34.7% of all male deaths last year relating to people in their early 20s, double the male average – while for women, it is the 50-54 age group.

During 2009, suicides are known to have involved people as young as the five-to-nine age group and as old as the 85-plus bracket.

The deaths included poisonings, hangings, drownings, firearms and other unspecified actions.

- 1Life, 24-hour specialist helpline: 1800 247100.

- HSE, 6pm to 10pm: free phone 1800 742745.


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