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In an article by Caroline O’Doherty, “Difficulty in determining cause of death delays recording of suicides” (Irish Examiner, September 20), it is clarified that many suicides are not being officially recorded for more than two years because of difficulties determining how the person died.
The article refers to a commentary published by the Central Statistics Office on September 19. The article also stated that ”despite the difficulties in providing timely and accurate figures, record-keeping has vastly improved in recent times”. This raises concerns as to whether reported increases in suicide statistics represent a true increase or whether these represent primarily changes in recording procedures of external causes of death.
In order to address these deficits, the National Suicide Research Foundation developed the Suicide Support and Information System (SSIS) representing a real-time database of suicide deaths. The SSIS was implemented in collaboration with coroners and health professionals in Cork city and county covering consecutive deaths by suicide and open verdict. Information on factors associated with the death and the deceased were obtained in an appropriately sensitive and confidential manner.
In this regard, the SSIS obtains information on cases of suicide at least two years earlier than the CSO and provides in-depth information on patterns and risk factors of suicide. The second report of the SSIS was published last year and can be accessed at: tinyurl.com/q2rpj4jf
Considering the high response rates and quality of the information, efforts are being made to expand this system to other regions in the country.
Professor Ella Arensman and Eileen Williamson
National Suicide Research Foundation
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health
University College Cork
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