AN organisation working to prevent suicide and self harm is concerned at the increasing number of children who see suicide as a viable option during the economic downturn.
Chief executive of Pieta House, Joan Freeman, said those at the coal face of dealing with individuals and their families in crisis had noticed a definite increase in the number of young people with suicidal thoughts.
“While it is often the parents who are struggling to cope with the stresses and strains the recession puts on family life, it is often the younger children who are suffering as a result,” she said.
Ms Freeman’s comments follow a report from the National Suicide Research Foundation which reveals drug overdoses accounted for seven out of 10 of all acts of self-harm documented last year.
News that 42% of all incidents involved overdoses with minor tranquillisers has prompted the registry to call for greater restrictions in terms of access to such drugs.
Pieta House, a voluntary organisation based in Lucan, Co Dublin, provides professional therapeutic services for communities who may have people who attempted suicide or actively contemplated the act.
Ms Freeman said the house has successfully treated almost 3,000 people since it opened in 2006 and the number of therapists at its Lucan centre increased to 30 to cope with demand.
Over the 12 month period to April, Pieta House dealt with 800 new assessments, with 103 processed last April, a development described as “quite worrying” by Ms Freeman.
Ms Freeman pointed in particular to an increase in the number of sixth class and first year students being referred to Pieta House.
She pointed out new presentations had increased by almost 50% in the past year.
“If demand continues we will have treated around 1,300 people in one year. The youngest person we have seen who was suicidal was seven years old and the oldest was 80.”
Director of research at the National Suicide Research foundation, Dr Ella Arensman, went on to say there was concern about people having illegal access to minor tranquillisers, usually available on prescription.
The 2009 annual report of the National Registry of Self Harm, compiled by Dr Arensman and Dr Paul Corcoran, deputy director and senior statistician, shows self cutting is the second most common self-harm method.
Self-cutting was used in one in five cases and significantly more often by men (25%) than by women (19%).
Attempted hanging accounted for 5% of all cases – 7% for men and 3% for women. At 608, it was 18% higher than in 2008 and the greatest number ever recorded by the registry.
Last year the registry recorded 11,966 deliberate harm presentations to emergency departments by 9,492 individuals. The male rate of deliberate self harm, at 197 per 100,000 was 10% higher than in 2008.
The most pronounced increase in the male self harm rate was the 21% increase in men aged 20 to 24 years. The female rate last year was virtually unchanged.
Dr Arensman said the increase in deliberate self harm among Irish men since 2007 was likely to be associated with the economic downturn.
* Anyone concerned about these issues can contact the Samaritans at 1850 609090 and can also visit www.aware.ie or www.mentalhealthireland.ie.
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