Increase in Suicide Figures

Increase in suicide figures is extremely concerning

Fine Gael Limerick TD and President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dan Neville, has today (Wednesday) described the 7% rise in suicide figures for last year as extremely concerning. The latest figures from the CSO show that 525 people died by suicide in 2011; 439 of them were men and 86 were female.

These figures also reveal there were 65 undetermined deaths in 2011; combining this with the fact that there are many unidentified suicides such as singular occupancy road crashes means the real number of people who died by suicide last year at over 600. This should be of extreme concern to all who value life and understand the trauma experienced by those who felt there was no other way out of their crisis than to take their own lives.

Understanding why suicide rates are so high requires extensive research, but we can easily identify two contributory issues; the neglect of the mental health services and the lack of suicide prevention programmes over the last few decades. Bearing in mind that up to 80% of those who die by suicide are suffering from a mental health difficulty, this neglect of mental health services is nothing short of scandalous.

The link between suicide and economic recession has been well established. Unemployment and the threat of unemployment is a leading predictor of suicide rates, especially in men. Those who are unemployed are two to three times more likely to take their lives than those in employment. Being out of work has a profound effect on a person, especially on the young and on those in middle age.

In the recent Budget, the Government allocated €35 million towards the development of mental health services. It is vital that this allocation is spent as intended. In 2006 and 2007, monies intended for mental health services were spent elsewhere; this cannot be allowed to happen again.

The first step in the development of mental health service is to develop community based multi-disciplinary psychiatric services. At present 150 new posts are being recruited to child and adolescent psychiatry, with a further 254 new posts for adult psychiatry. I am concerned by the level of progress being made by the HSE in the establishment of 90 community based multi-disciplinary psychiatric teams across four regions. This progress needs to be closely monitored.

The National Suicide Prevention Office has a key role to play in suicide prevention. The allocation of an extra €3 million to its budget this year is a welcome development. I welcome the recent appointment of the new Director of the National Suicide Prevention Office, but I am extremely concerned that the promised Director of the Mental Health Services in the HSE has not been appointed. It is vital for the proper development and co-ordination of the Government’s policy that this post is filled without delay.