Economic crisis linked to 100 suicides in State by study
Recession-related suicide rate in Ireland one of the highest in Europe, research finds
Last December’s annual Console service of light in St Patrick’s chapel in Maynooth College. Console chief executive Paul Kelly said the research findings published in the British Medical Journal accurately reflected the experience of people working in the area here. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
The 2008 global economic crisis may have led to almost 5,000 additional suicides across the world in 2009, including almost 100 in Ireland, according to a major new study.
The excess suicide rate in Ireland as a result of the crisis is one of the highest in Europe, the research published today in the British Medical Journal shows.
Only Estonia, Malta and Iceland showed a greater increase in suicide rates over pre-crisis levels. The excess suicide rate in Ireland was also higher than in any of the 18 American countries included in the study, which was conducted by researchers in the UK and Hong Kong.
The study calculated the suicide rates in 54 countries in 2009, a year after the crisis broke, relative to the rates expected based on trends from 2000-2007.
The Irish rate was 24.3 per cent higher than expected, giving rise to the estimate of 97 additional, recession-related suicides in Ireland in 2009.
Some 82 of the additional suicides were male, while 15 were female.
The study, the first to look at international trends in suicide, links the rise in suicide rates with the size of increases in unemployment, particularly for males and in countries with low pre-crisis unemployment levels. Across the 54 countries surveyed there were an estimated 4,884 excess suicides in 2009. While an estimated 5,124 additional males died by suicide, the number of females who died by suicide was estimated to have fallen by 240.
Paul Kelly, chief executive of Console, an Irish suicide charity, said the research findings accurately reflected the experience of people working in the area here. “The impact of the recession on people’s mental health has been very palpable. We get many calls from people who can’t cope with the effects of the downturn, or from their family members, and who wrongly feel a great sense of failure for events that are essentially out of their control.”
Mr Kelly said that while there had been a number of high-profile cases of suicide among developers, the problem was more widespread. “We’re dealing with these kinds of problems every day – the hopelessness and despair that sometimes goes with fears of debt and house repossessions.”
The problem was particularly acute among men, he said. The hope now was that these fears would recede as the economic climate improved and a resolution of bank issues was finalised. Mr Kelly said anyone affected by suicidal thoughts should contact Console or one of the other agencies offering help.
According to the BMJ study, unemployment globally increased by an estimated 34 million between 2007 and 2009, while gross domestic product fell. In 2009, the overall suicide rate rose 3.3 per cent, with the biggest increases seen among 15-24 year-old men in Europe and 45-64 year-olds in America.
Helplines: Samaritans ( samaritans.org), 1850-609090 (Republic) or 08457-909090 (Britain/Northern Ireland);
Pieta House ( pieta.ie), centre for prevention of self-harm or suicide, 01-601 0000;
Console ( console.ie), a charity for the bereaved, free helpline at 1800-201890;
and Aware (aware.ie), helping people with depression, at 1890-303302.