Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

President urges suicide rate study

President Michael D Higgins wants an investigation into regional suicide rates.

President Michael D Higgins has called for an investigation into the social and regional differences behind suicide rates.

On the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day, the President said research is "crucial" to understanding suicide and helping to stop it.

Mr Higgins said an estimated 507 people died by suicide across the country in 2012, according to HSE figures.

"But such aggregate figures mask significant social and regional differences, with figures for certain counties proportionally much higher than for others," he said.

"The underlying reasons for these different trends need to be investigated."

The President was addressing a conference on World Suicide Prevention Day hosted by charity Console at Croke Park.

He credited the organisation for having called for an accurate database of Ireland's suicide rates.

Official figures released last week revealed 9,500 people were treated in hospital in 2012 after attempting to take their own lives.

Emergency departments recorded 12,010 incidents of self-harm, with many distressed men and women being rushed in several times.

Console founder and chief executive Paul Kelly said a "true database" recording all probable suicides was needed to get an accurate idea of how many people are taking their own lives.

Concerns have been raised over the high number of undetermined deaths recorded - 696 between January 2004 and December 2010 - which could include "hidden cases" of suicide.

"At the moment, due to inconsistencies in deaths being correctly attributed to suicide, we do not have an accurate picture of what is happening in Ireland, and we feel that the real suicide rate is significantly higher than that published," Mr Kelly said.

Campaigners have suggested that official figures for suicides in Ireland exclude undetermined deaths.

They have claimed that some coroners are reluctant to record a suicide verdict on death certificates - opting instead to record an open verdict out of sensitivity to the deceased's family.

Meanwhile, the President described suicide as "a phenomenon which shatters the happiness of too many individuals, families and communities across Ireland".

He said while understanding figures behind suicide rates was important, research should also focus on human behaviour.

"Of course no research design will ever exhaust the questions surrounding suicide," Mr Higgins added.

"Like many other dimensions of human life, suicide remains a challenge in the social sciences and a challenge to our social solidarity.

"The research challenge remains, not only as to what are predisposing factors but as to what we might call 'last straw', 'last cry for recognition' or 'an act of limitation'."

World Suicide Prevention Day takes place on September 10 and is aimed at raising awareness and support for the prevention of suicide.

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