Drugs and drink key factors in North's suicide rate, study finds


DRINK AND drugs were significant contributors to the incidence of suicide and homicide in Northern Ireland, a study carried out by researchers from the University of Manchester has found.

The independent study also found that suicide rates were rising in Northern Ireland while they are falling in Britain.

The report published yesterday found that alcohol and drugs were “fuelling homicide and suicide rates” in Northern Ireland, with alcohol appearing to be a key factor for the North’s higher suicide rates, including among mental health patients, compared to England and Wales.

Suicide is highest among young people, the Suicide and Homicide in Northern Ireland report found, It was carried out by the British National Confidential Inquiry into suicide and homicide by people with mental illness, which is based in the University of Manchester’s centre for suicide prevention.

The report showed there were 332 suicides among under-25s during the study period of 2000 to 2008, with mental illness, drugs and alcohol, previous self-harm and deprivation contributing factors in the majority of cases.

The study, commissioned on behalf of the North’s Department of Health, reported that there were 1,865 suicides in the North between 2000 and 2008, equivalent to 207 per year – or 13.9 per 100,000 people per annum. This rate is higher than the UK average but lower than in Scotland.

During the same period, there were 533 suicides among mental health patients, amounting to 29 per cent of suicides in the North.

“Young people who died by suicide were more likely than other age groups to be living in the poorest areas and they had the lowest rate of contact with mental health services (15 per cent),” the report added. “Young mental health patients who died by suicide tended to have high rates of drug misuse (65 per cent), alcohol misuse (70 per cent) and previous self-harm (73 per cent).”