Numbers at suicide crisis centre rose by 33%

 

ONE OF the country’s biggest suicide crisis centres, Pieta House, said yesterday it treated 1,063 people last year, almost a third more than in the previous year.

It also warned that official suicide statistics were probably under-reporting the true number of suicides taking place during the current economic recession.

Some 1,063 people were treated at Pieta House for suicidal feeling or self-harm in 2010, up from 736 in 2009. The figures show 235 people who attended the centre attempted to take their own lives and 70 per cent of patients had suicidal feelings. Some 292 people who attended Pieta House last year were self-harming.

Joan Freeman, founder and chief executive of Pieta House, said she was very concerned at the increasing demand on the centre’s services. She said the recession was creating a sense of despair in the country, which was having an impact on people’s wellbeing.

She said less money and fewer jobs in the economy were having a ripple effect on people’s families. Relationships are suffering and men sometimes are having to leave their family homes, she said.

She said this could account for the “unusual” finding that more people between the ages of 26 and 44 accessed their services last year than younger age groups. Ms Freeman said suicide was usually about a life crisis. Nine out of 10 people who take their own life have no history of mental illness or psychiatric disorder, she said.

She warned that the official national suicide statistics often did not include drownings, single-vehicle accidents or all incidents that may have been due to suicide. She said this meant suicides were probably being under-reported.

“I think at least two people are dying from suicide every day,” she said.

“We are very concerned about increasing number of suicides and we are probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

At least 520 people took their lives by suicide in 2009 and, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office, there were 104 suicides in the first three months of 2010.

Last month, Pieta House opened its second national centre in Limerick, which followed its existing facility in Lucan as well as its three Dublin outreach services in Finglas and Tallaght and a recently opened facility in Ballyfermot.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also expressed concern yesterday about Ireland’s high suicide rate, which he said had been worsened by the nation’s economic difficulties.

Mr Kenny, speaking to reporters in his hometown, Castlebar, described suicide as “one of the tragic phenomena of this country”.

He added: “It has been exacerbated by an assumption that we were going to have cheap money forever.”

The Taoiseach said he hoped US president Barack Obama would get to give one of his inspirational talks to young people when he visits here next month.

“His message is one of hope for young people and the future,” said Mr Kenny, who met the Obama family in the White House on St Patrick’s Day.

CRISIS TREATMENT BY THE NUMBERS

1,063

people treated who either had suicidal feelings, attempted suicide or self-harmed

235

people treated who attempted suicide

292

people treated who self-harmed

22%

of people treated were aged under 18

28%

of people treated were aged 18-25

29%

of people treated were aged 26-44