Reduced drinking is one of the few unequivocal measures that bring down suicide rates

From The Irish Times

PAUL CULLEN, Health Correspondent

Suicide rates among young men could be reduced by restricting access to the means for self-harm, a new report suggests. Young Irish men need to develop their emotional skills to ward off the risk of suicide, says the report, published today by the Men ’s Health Forum in Ireland .

Reduced drinking is one of the few unequivocal measures that bring down suicide rates, and alcohol policy needs to address this, the report says.

Restricting access to means of suicide, and training doctors to recognise the signs of depression, are key factors that can bring rates down, it adds.

It points out that early intervention in childhood is effective, but warns there are no simple solutions to tackle the  “extensive and complex causes ” of suicide among young men.

 ‘Moral requirement ’

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

Among the means for restricting access to suicide outlined are the construction of barriers at jump sites, limiting access to firearms, detoxifying gas in homes, limiting access to pesticides which could be ingested and charcoal used for carbon monoxide poisoning, and restricting the sale of barbiturates and painkillers.

 “Restriction among particular groups within the wider population [such as farmers]  – who may have access to particular means of harm  – could be considered, ” the report suggests.

It says limiting access to hanging is one of the most difficult prevention strategies as it is impossible to remove potential ligature points in homes. As a result, this approach has been focused on in prisons, hospitals and other institutions.

 ‘Emotional vocabulary ’

 “Young men need to see emotional expression as a skill that improves with practice, and need to build an emotional vocabulary to be able to access the vulnerable feelings that are likely to underpin expressions of anger, ” it states.

The cross-Border study says the recent spike in suicide rates coincides with the economic downturn and increased unemployment. Although the rate of male suicide in Ireland is relatively low within the EU, the rate among young males is among the highest.