Study to establish recession suicide link

In a ground-breaking bid to establish a definite link between suicide rates and the recession, Cork-based researchers are to interview survivors of a potentially lethal act of self-harm.

Ella Arensman from the National Suicide Research Foundation is to interview people who nearly died from suicide to find out why they took such a drastic step.

“There is anecdotal evidence that suicide increases during a recession but there has never been a systematic in-depth investigation as to whether this is really the case,” said Prof Arensman, adding that the study would focus on the interaction between psychosocial and work-related issues.

Since 2008, suicide rates in Ireland have increased significantly and in line with the recession. In the absence of any systematic research in this area in Ireland, it remains inconclusive whether the two developments are linked.

Prof Arensman said more research was needed to see why some people were more at risk of self-harm and suicide and why others were more resilient.

The three-year project, supported by a Health Research Board investment, gets under way in the autumn.

Prof Arensman, research director at the foundation, has been allowed access to all suicide cases heard by the coroner’s service in Cork City and county.

As well as the democratic, psychological, and psychiatric factors, she has been able to see whether the people who took their lives were unemployed, experiencing financial problems, or being bullying at work.

Prof Arensman said the funding would allow them to discover the specific combination of risk factors that led to suicide.

“We will continue our work in looking in great detail at each case of suicides that occurs in the Cork region and, hopefully, other regions in the country.

“We will also continue to liaise with bereaved family members in the way we have been doing and with health care professionals who were the last person to come in contact with someone who died by suicide.”

It is hoped that the study would help to identify people with a high suicide risk and those with high-risk work environments. as well as developing suicide prevention and health promotion programmes in healthcare, community, and work settings.

Prof Arensman’s project is one of 40 selected from 209 applications to benefit from a €12.3m investment by the HRB. They were judged by international experts who believed they would lead to results that were relevant nationally and internationally.

Each project will receive up to €330,000 over the next three years.

More funds

Other funded projects:

* National University Ireland, Galway — Dr Sean Dineen

Wants to find out more about the difficulties young adults face in managing their diabetes and explore new ways of providing the health care that they need.

* Royal College of Surgeons — Prof Dermot Kenny

Investigating why some blood groups have a higher risk of heart attack than others and establish if it is because some types of blood are stickier than others.

* University of Limerick — Prof Anne McFarlane

Looking at primary care reform in Ireland as there is scant research on how health professionals try and implement team working into their day-to-day routines.

* University College Dublin – Dr Patricia Fitzpatrick

Evaluating the clinical and economic benefits of introducing the new-born screening programme for cystic fibrosis.

* University of Limerick — Prof Stewart Walsh

Conducting trials aimed at helping to prevent adverse events in major vascular surgery.

* Trinity College Dublin — Dr Lucy Norris

Developing a risk score model to help accurately identify whether gynaecological cancer patients are at high risk of blood clotting in veins or lungs.

* National University of Galway – Dr Thomas Ritter

Developing a new topical treatment for skin inflammation using adult stem cells.

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