Ireland has exceptionally high rates of suicide among young males and females but lacks a national strategy on prevention, a Europe-wide report on injuries sustained by children as a result of violence has found.
The report is the first to comprehensively assess national strategies that address child intentional injury across the EU. It examines child maltreatment, peer violence and self-directed violence which are regarded as the three main areas of violence against children.
The European Child Safety Alliance report found that despite the high suicide rate here, Ireland does not have a national strategy for the prevention of suicide and self-directed injury.
It also highlights the absence of laws mandating reporting of suspected cases of child maltreatment by professionals and the absence of laws prohibiting corporal punishment in all settings.
Dr Anthony Staines, chair of health systems at DCU's School of Nursing and Human Sciences said Ireland has "a very serious problem with suicide."
Dr Staines said Ireland does not have “a full range of measures in place to minimise intentional injury in childhood, though we are better in this respect than many other countries.”
“Intentional injury in childhood is often a hidden problem and needs much more attention from Irish and European societies,” he said.
Of the more than 35,000 children and adolescents aged 0-19 years who die each year in the EU, about 24 per cent or roughly 9,100 deaths are due to injuries. Of these, about a third are classified as intentional or of undetermined intent.
There were 600 deaths of people under the age of 25 recorded in Ireland in 2012. Of these, 195 of were due to external causes, 101 were accidental and 94 were intentional or unknown (mostly suicide).
The report found that Ireland has the highest rate of suicide in young females across Europe and the second highest rate of suicide in young males.
At 5.12 male deaths per 100,000 of children aged 0-19, Ireland had the second highest rate of suicide across Europe. Lithuania had the highest incidence of male suicide at 6.58 boys per 100,000. This compares to a EU 28 average of 2.39.
Ireland had the highest rate of female suicide across the surveyed countries at 2.09 per 100, 000. This compares to an average across 28 EU countries of 0.84 and is 19 times greater than the lowest rate of 0.11 in Greece*.
The figures used in the study are based on data from the World Health Organisation’s European detailed mortality database from 2009 to 2011.
Ireland compares well with other countries in some policy areas and is one of only four countries to have either a national programme of multi-disciplinary child death reviews or regional programmes across the whole country in place.
Ireland also had the lowest rate of child homicide per 100,000 aged 0-19 years at 0.11 in boys and 0.27 in girls. This compares to an average of 0.44 in boys and 0.36 in girls across the EU28 plus Norway.
In general, the report finds that the resources put toward combating child intentional injury do not take account of the magnitude of the issue, considering the life-long impact that violence can have on children.
It calls for improved leadership to make intentional injury prevention a priority; better provision of detailed mortality data and the introduction of national coordinating frameworks and plans to prevent intentional child injury.
“It is clear that preventing intentional injuries is an investment that will save money both now and in the future and efforts must be made to ensure investment are at minimum maintained, if not increased, during the current economic crisis. The decisions made today will ultimately affect future generations of Europeans,” the report says.
* This article was amended on 21/03/14 to correct an error.