Increase in more lethal methods of self-harm in recession

People who self-harm have been using more lethal methods since the beginning of the recession, research shows.

While the level of self-harm continues to fall since then, the use of lethal methods has risen by more than half for women and by more than one third for men, according to the National Suicide Research Foundation.

In 2013, the age-standardised rate of individuals presenting to hospital following self-harm was 199 per 100,000, a 6% decrease on the rate in 2012.

This decrease is the third successive fall in the rate of self-harm in Ireland, which was down 4% in 2011 and 2% in 2012.

However, the rate of self-harm in 2013 was still 6% higher than 2007, before the economic recession. During the period 2007 to 2013, there was variation in the methods of self-harm recorded by the NSRF’s Registry.

While methods of low lethality remained relatively stable during this time, highly lethal methods have steadily increased since 2007 for both men and women and across all age groups, and in particular among 25-44-year- olds.

While relatively rare, the number of presentations involving highly lethal methods has increased by 32% for men and 53% for women since 2007.

“This is particularly worrying as there is a significant association between the use of highly lethal methods of self-harm and subsequent suicide, especially among men,” said Professor Ella Arensman, of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCC.

The research also found the increase in rates of self-harm associated with the economic recession varied according to age.

During the period 2010-2013, the increase in male self-harm was highest among those aged 25-44 years, the study reveals.

For women, the most significant increase was observed for those aged 15 to 24.

Meanwhile, the suicide prevention organisaton Pieta House has announced the appointment of Brian J Higgins as its new chief executive officer.

Mr Higgins takes over from Pieta House founder Joan Freeman, who will now focus her efforts on expanding Pieta House’s services abroad, beginning initially in the United States.

Mr Higgins said he is looking forward to “continuing the admirable work conducted by Joan Freeman since 2006.”


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