Research highlights alcohol link to suicide

  • Post category:News

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Over two thirds of people who took their own lives in the past three years knew a family member or friend who had taken their own life or tried to.

The research by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) also found the vast majority of suicides happened within 12 months of experiencing a friend or family member taking their own lives.

The foundation’s Suicide Support and Information System, to be launched today by Kathleen Lynch, the minister for mental health, looked at 190 suicides in Cork between Sept 2008 and 2009.

It found that:

* 78% abused alcohol in the year before they died;

* 35% had abused both alcohol and drugs;

* 81% had been in contact with their GP or mental health services in the years before they died;

* 56% had used prescription medicine in the year prior to their death;

* 80% of those who took their own lives were male;

* 52% had attempted suicide in the year prior to their death;

* 68% were known to have experienced suicidal behaviour (fatal and/or non-fatal) by family members or friends at some point in their lives.

NSRF research director Dr Ella Arensman said the finding underlined the need for suicide bereavement support services to be on the alert for vulnerable family members.

The findings strongly supported the need to reduce access to alcohol and to increase people’s awareness of the link between alcohol misuse/abuse and the development of depression and related mental health problems.

“Ireland has been effective in implementing the smoking ban. Why can’t we be effective in reducing access to alcohol?” she said.

Dr Arensman suggested reducing the number of outlets where people could buy alcohol, or include a warning on alcohol that excessive use could cause serious mental problems.

Just over 30% received a psychiatric assessment prior to their death by suicide ”” 61% were diagnosed with a mood disorder, 13% with an anxiety disorder, 9% with alcohol dependence, and 9% with schizophrenia.

Among the deceased, 56% used prescription medication for mental health problems in the year before they died.

However, 46% did not comply with the instructions.

“These findings underline the need for mental health services to review their treatment policy and interventions for people at risk of suicide,” said Dr Arensman.