Tackling alcohol abuse is key to reducing the high suicide levels among young Irish men

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, has called for minimum pricing and other recommendations to reduce alcohol harm to be implemented in full in response to a new report which states that reducing our levels of drinking is one of the key ways of tackling high suicide rates among young Irish men.

Alcohol Action Ireland has brought together a 30-strong coalition of national organisations calling for the introduction of minimum pricing, with other members including The Samaritans, Mental Health Ireland, the Irish Association of Suicidology and the College of Psychiatry of Ireland (For a full list of members, see notes).

 “We are coming up to the first anniversary of the Steering Group Report on the National Substance Misuse Strategy which contains a clear blueprint to tackle our harmful relationship with alcohol. That report ’s recommendations, especially those on the pricing, marketing and availability of alcohol, would be of particular benefit to young men in Ireland, among whom more than one in three deaths is now as a result of suicide, ” said Conor Cullen, Communications Officer with Alcohol Action Ireland.

The All-Ireland Young Men and Suicide Project report found that  “alcohol and substance misuse tend to be higher in young men and are associated with increased suicide risk ”, while impulsive behaviour associated with alcohol use was also highlighted as one of the main risk factors for suicide among young men. One of the 12 recommendations of the report published by the Men ’s Health Forum in Ireland is to  “expand interventions that tackle alcohol and substance misuse in young men ”.

 “The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that the risk of suicide when a person is currently abusing alcohol is eight times greater than if they were not abusing alcohol. However, a person doesn ’t have to be a heavy drinker or even a regular drinker to be at risk – just one occasion of heavy drinking can reduce inhibitions enough to self-harm or act on suicidal thoughts, ” said Mr Cullen.

 “Alcohol Action Ireland is calling for the recommendations of the Steering Group to be implemented in full. This would see the introduction of minimum pricing, which would help bring an end to the current situation where cheap booze is available at pocket-money prices. The WHO, among others, has clearly stated that as the price of alcohol goes up, consumption goes down.

 “Alcohol marketing is another key area targeted in the Steering Group ’s report because alcohol marketing largely promotes positive, risk-free images of alcohol and we are exposed to these images 24/7 through sponsorship, pricing, product placement, branded merchandise and many other forms of promotion, ” said Mr Cullen.

 “Marketing can shape youth culture by creating and sustaining expectations and norms about how to achieve social, sporting or sexual success, how to celebrate, how to relax and how to belong. Extensive scientific research has established that alcohol marketing influences young people to start drinking and if already drinking, to drink more.

 “However, what alcohol marketing doesn ’t show young people is that alcohol can affect our ability to cope, manage and overcome everyday stresses and significant life events such as unemployment or bereavement. Alcohol can also contribute to the development of mental health problems as well as exacerbating pre-existing mental health difficulties. It can also reduce inhibitions enough for an individual to act on suicidal thoughts which they might never have done if not under the influence of alcohol. ”


For further information please contact Alcohol Action Ireland Communications Officer Conor Cullen on 01-8780610 or 087-7530576.


Members of the Minimum Pricing coalition:

Alcohol Action Ireland, Alcohol Forum, Barnardos, Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign, Focus Ireland, Foroige, Irish Association of Social Care Workers, Irish Association of Suicidology, Mental Health Ireland, Rape Crisis Network of Ireland, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Social Care Ireland, St Patrick ’s University Hospital, St Vincent de Paul, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, The Ballymun Local Drugs Task Force, The College of Psychiatry of Ireland, The Clondalkin Local Drugs Task Force, The Family Support Network, The Irish Cancer Society, The Irish Heart Foundation, The Irish Medical Organisation, The ISPCC, The National Youth Council of Ireland, The No Name Club, The RISE Foundation, The Rutland Centre, The Samaritans, The Swan Family Support Organisation, Women ’s Aid

Suicide is the leading cause of death among young Irish men aged 15-24. In 2011, 525 suicides were registered, an increase of 7%  – 439 of those who died were men

Alcohol use can act as a factor in suicide in a number of ways:

  • A HSE report tells us that  “alcohol can facilitate suicide by increasing impulsivity, changing mood and deepening depression ”
  • Self-harm or suicide can take place after just one drinking session. A person doesn ’t have to be a heavy drinker or even a regular drinker: just one occasion of heavy drinking can reduce inhibitions enough to self-harm   or act on suicidal thoughts
  • Alcohol initially produces feelings of happiness and well-being but can lead to a significant lowering in mood hours after use or in the following days, an experience which is sometimes accompanied by feelings of hopelessness. If someone is already experiencing a degree of depression, the fall in mood can lead to suicidal ideas
  • Ongoing abuse of alcohol is itself a major contributory factor in depression and suicidal behaviour