Suicide figures in first quarter up by 81% on last year


Suicide figures for the first quarter of the year have increased by 81 per cent over the same period last year, the conference was told at the weekend.

Mr Dan Neville TD, president of the association, said 129 people had committed suicide in the first quarter of 1998 compared to 71 last year.

He said that last year, 433 people in Ireland suffered death by suicide, representing a 14 per cent increase on the previous year. More than a quarter were under 24 and eight younger than 15. "The theme of our conference, suicide prevention, is very apt in the context of the increase in suicide levels with its consequent loss and suffering for so many families and communities," he said. "The rising trend accentuates the need for the State to immediately implement in full the recommendations of the National Task Force on Suicide."

Irish society, he said, must face up to and deal with this public health issue. "Resources must be made available to reverse the trend."

In his address, the secretary of the association, Dr John Connolly, a consultant psychiatrist, said that any suicide prevention strategy introduced "must be appropriate to local conditions and be based on robust research".

Mr Neville led tributes from all speakers at the association's third annual conference to the late Dr Michael Kelleher, a founding member of the Irish Association of Suicidology. He said there was a deep sense of loss and sadness at the death of a man who was "a great human being - his humanity was endless. He was a great loss to us, to the people who are depressed and suicidal, and of course to his family."

The conference was attended by his widow, Dr Margaret Kelleher, and colleagues from the National Suicide Research Foundation in Cork.

Prevention, recognition and treatment of people with mental disorder plays a key role in suicide prevention, the conference was told.

Prof Roy McClelland, director of the School of Clinical Medicine, Queen's University Belfast, conducted a study of the prevalence of existing mental disorders among people who committed suicide in Northern Ireland.

The study found that at least one main disorder was present in a high number of suicides studied. Common disorders were alcohol dependence, manic depression, anxiety disorders, panic disorders. "In keeping with previous studies this provides further evidence of a strong link between suicide and mental disorder," he said.

The study carried out in Northern Ireland examined personality disorders among suicides during a one-year period, studying 154 deaths. Prof McClelland said there was a previous history of self-harm within a year of death in over half of cases. A lifetime history of contact with mental health services was more common among people over the age of 30 who committed suicide.

"In Northern Ireland we clearly need to strive to facilitate and maintain contact between health care professionals and potential suicides, particularly young males. Furthermore, it will be necessary to adopt alternative strategies to reach more elusive potential suicides."