Suicide rate increased by 24%, conference told


THERE WERE 527 suicides in Ireland during 2009, a 24 per cent increase on 2008, according to data presented at a conference in Dublin yesterday.

It was held to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day. The theme in Ireland this year was work-related suicide.

Ciaran Austin, of the Console 1Life suicide prevention helpline, said in 2009 “almost 200 more deaths were of an undetermined nature”.

It was believed the true suicide figure for 2009 was “between 600 and 700”. Of those deaths recorded as suicide in 2009, “80 per cent were male”.

The increase in such statistics during the recession “has been very quietly accepted”, he said. For most people “the simplest way to help is to show you care”, he said.

Eamon Devoy, chairman of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) health and safety committee, said there had been 48 deaths in the workplace in 2010 and “quite a number of those were suicides”. Such events at work had “a horrific effect on colleagues”, he said. He warned against the effects of the €4 million cut in the Health and Safety Authority budget and plans to amalgamate its functions with other bodies.

Jack O’Connor, Ictu president, said as well as 48 workplace deaths in 2010, 20,000 people were out of work through injury or illness for more than three days in that year. “I don’t doubt the need for incentive, or for profit even, but I do question why things have to be so out of balance,” he said.

Martin O’Halloran, chief executive of the Health and Safety Authority, said the authority was “very aware of instances and circumstances where it would be extremely difficult to envisage how the accident took place without planning by the victim.”

John Redmond of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said garda suicides were referred to “as ‘accidents’ or ‘suspicious’ but rarely ‘suicide’”.

Association proposals to management that a helpline be made available for such cases and that counselling be made compulsory “fell on deaf ears”, he said.