Three Cork suicides in November, not 16, says research group

Sensationalist reporting can distort facts relating to suicide clusters, warns NSRF

 Micheál Martin: told the Dáil that the suicide rate in Cork was twice the national average. Photograph: Alan Betson

Micheál Martin: told the Dáil that the suicide rate in Cork was twice the national average. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The number of recent suicides in Cork city is far less than has been cited in Dáil Éireann and reported in the media, according to the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF).

It said a key element of the Health Service Executive’s response had been verification of the accuracy of the number of suicide cases and an examination of the links between the cases.

“In this regard, the number of ‘16 suicides in Cork City since the start of November’, as quoted repeatedly in the media, is not substantiated by the facts. The factual information indicates to three cases of suicide in Cork City since the start of November,” the NSRF said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil that the suicide rate in Cork was twice the national average, saying that “in the past two weeks in Cork, it is believed that up to 16 people have died by suicide”.

According to the Cork-based NSRF, based on suicide figures published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the number of suicides in Cork city over the past five years ranged from 22 in 2010 to 16 in 2014, the year of the most recent confirmed CSO figures.

The figures equate to a suicide rate of 18.9 per 100,000 in 2010 and of 16.1 per 100,000 in 2014, both of which are higher than the comparable national figures of 10.9 per 100,000 in 2010 and 10 per 100,000 in 2014 but lower than other areas, such as Limerick city and Limerick county.

Looking at the issue more closely, the foundation pointed out that a suicide cluster is defined by Public Health England as “a situation in which more suicides than expected occur in terms of time, place, or both”, usually including three or more deaths. “However, two suicides occurring in a specific community or setting and short time period should also be taken very seriously in terms of possible links, particularly in the case of young people. Often, suicide contagion can be the starting point of a suicide cluster.”

The NSRF said its statement had been issued on behalf of the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention, in response to the “widespread and sensationalist reporting of cases of suicide in Cork city in recent weeks”. It warned that “there is a need for sensitive and factual reporting in order to minimise harm and increase awareness. The graphic nature of reporting and the reporting of specific details of the methods involved can trigger copycat cases.”

– Anyone affected by the issues raised in this story can contact the Samaritans on 116123, Aware on 1800-804848 or Childline on 1800-666666