A wake-up call on teenage suicide
Unicef starkly predicts that one in 10,000 Irish 15 to 19-year-olds will die by suicide
The finding in a Unicef report that the teenage suicide rate in the Republic is the fourth-highest among high-income countries must be a cause for concern. The report starkly predicts that one in 10,000 Irish 15 to 19-year-olds will die by suicide. Assessing the status of children in 41 high-income countries, it finds boys are three times more likely to take their own lives than girls; more girls attempt to do so but by using less lethal methods. The lowest rates of teenage suicide are recorded in southern European countries.
The UN report must be viewed in the context of an overall suicide rate in Ireland that has fallen by almost 20 per cent since 2011. Final figures for the total number of suicides for last year will be lower than the 451 recorded in 2015. However, commenting on these figures, Prof Brendan Kelly, professor of psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, said: “The overall decrease in the suicide rate masks an increase in the rate among young men, which needs to be addressed through better support services, alcohol and drug misuse services, and collaboration with schools, colleges and sports organisations”.
In addition he highlighted an urgent need for an increase in community-based care at weekends and out-of-hours. At present people who self-harm access psychiatric care via hospital emergency departments. But with recent figures showing almost 11,500 people attended emergency departments for self-harm over a four-year period in the Dublin northeast region alone, it is clear that much more than a single psychiatric assessment is needed to care for these patients.
Of the 4,800 people discharged from the emergency department, almost one quarter were sent home with no follow-up, while just 10 per cent of those who had attempted self-harm were referred to community-based mental health teams. The Health Service Executive has also failed to adequately record information about people who have taken their own lives. The Unicef report is a clear wake-up call on youth suicide in Ireland. We need focused intervention and we need it now.