Data on suicides nationwide reveals sharp differences

Hard facts: 375 men take own lives across the Republic in 2015, in addition to 76 women

New figures show sharp differences in the number of suicides around the country, according to provisional statistics from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The data shows 451 recorded suicides across Ireland in 2015 – a fall from the 459 recorded in 2014, leaving the suicide rate per 100,00 of population down from 10 to 9.7.

However, the suicide rate actually increased across all regions apart from Leinster, which is Ireland’s most populous.

In particular, the provisional figures, which remain subject to change, show a large disparity in suicide rates between some cities and the surrounding county area. Whereas there were no recorded suicides in Waterford city in 2015, the suicide rate in Co Waterford more than doubled from 8.8 in 2014 to 19 last year.

A similar difference was evident in Co Galway, where the rate jumped from 10.2 to 17.4 compared to a more modest increase in the city, where it rose from 11.1 in 2014 to 12.7 last year. The suicide rate in Limerick city dipped to 16 from 23 in 2014, while there was more than a twofold increase in the rate in county Limerick, up to 12.7 from 5.2 in 2014.

Decline in Leinster

Of the 451 recorded suicides in 2015, 202 occurred in Leinster, which includes Dublin, but the suicide rate dropped across the province to 7.9 from the previous level of 8.9.

Munster (at 12), Connacht (at 12.5) and Ulster figures for Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan (at 11.3) all demonstrated varying degrees of increases compared with rates in 2014.

There were also large fluctuations across individual counties. Suicide rates fell by more than half in areas such as Carlow, Dún Laoghaire and Sligo, but there was a near doubling of the rate in Kilkenny as well as Wicklow.

Waterford city was the only place where no suicides were recorded whatsoever. Some 375 men took their own lives across the State in 2015, along with 76 women.

The CSO’s provisional figures refer only to deaths registered in 2015 even though some may have occurred in the preceding years, whereas the more comprehensive final data for suicides expected in either 2017 or 2018 will only include deaths which happened during 2015 itself.

Classification difficulties

The process of categorising deaths is an added complication, and the outcome of a full coroner’s report is needed before a death can formally be classified as suicide.

On top of this, statistics generally tend to underestimate the overall number of suicides, as it is not possible to definitively determine a cause of death in some cases.

Dr Ella Arensman of the National Suicide Research Foundation said regionalised figures in the provisional data may change by up to 50 per cent in the full report, and she questioned the wisdom of releasing incomplete data.

“On the one hand, you could say it’s very good that we have figures for 2015, but they are not reliable . . . There is a big question as to what is the use of this data when it is not reliable,” she said.

She advised that the best course of action would be for the CSO to avoid releasing provisional figures, and to instead await the completion of a more comprehensive analysis.