Concerns over rate of young male suicides

From the Irish Examiner

By Conall Ó Fátharta

Irish Examiner ReporterThe Young Men and Suicide project found that, over the past decade, the rate of deaths from suicide has been five times higher in males than in females in Ireland.

It is estimated that 165 teenagers and young men took their own lives in Ireland in 2011, while 72 teenagers and young men took their own lives in the North.

Although the rate of male suicide in Ireland is relatively low within the EU overall, the rate among young males is among the highest in the EU.

The jointly funded cross-border report said the recent spike in suicide rates in both Ireland and the North coincides with the economic downturn, increasing levels of unemployment, and alcohol consumption.

Hanging was found to be the most frequent method of suicide, particularly among young men. The report also found that deliberate self-harm, traditionally more common in females, was now higher among young males than young females.

Noel Richardson, lead author of the report, said there was a public and moral requirement for action on the issue of suicide on the island of Ireland.

 “There can be no quick-fix solutions to tackling the very grave statistics on suicide in young men on the island of Ireland, ” said Dr Richardson.  “But neither is there any place for inertia or ambivalence. There is both a public health and a moral requirement to act. ”

Dr Richardson said there needs to be  “a concerted effort to engage more effectively and in a more sustained way with young men, and to plan services and programmes with young men in mind ”. He said the report provided a  “blueprint and a roadmap ” for action.

The report found that the factors most consistently associated with the rise in young male suicide are income inequality, family relationship difficulties, peer relationship problems, school failure, low self-esteem, and violence.

Some of the suicide prevention methods highlighted as being effective in reducing suicide rates include physician education in depression recognition and treatment, and restricting access to lethal methods of suicide.

The restriction of items such as firearms, pesticides, domestic gas, sale of barbiturates, analgesic painkillers; mandatory use of catalytic converters; construction of barriers at jump sites; and lower toxicity anti-depressants have been found to be effective in reducing suicide rates.

Alcohol Action Ireland called for minimum pricing and other recommendations to reduce alcohol-related harm to be implemented in full.

Sinn Féin ’s spokesman on health and children, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, said the figures for suicide on the island of Ireland were  “truly shocking ” and called for a determined and co-ordinated response from governments on both sides of the border.