Belfast Telegraph

Suicide figure 'close to 600'

There were 554 deaths by suicide officially recorded in 2011 but the true figure may be closer to 600, researchers have claimed.

Data from coroners and the Garda shows the number of people taking their own lives in Ireland at its highest since records began in 2000 but experts warn between 30 or 40 deaths by suicide might be unaccounted for each year.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) numbers show 458 male suicide deaths in 2011 and 96 women.

The National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) based at University College Cork said the provisional data for 2012 shows 507 deaths by suicide - 413 men and 94 women - with reports for last year pointing to 475 suicides - 396 men and 79 women.

Eve Griffin, post-doctoral research psychologist at the foundation, said the actual figure may be masked by restrictions on classifications.

"We would think that the statistics would be somewhat of an under-estimation of the actual suicide rates because there might be some ambiguity around the coroner's inquest and that a suicide might be classified as an accident or undetermined," she said.

Dr Griffin said NSRF studies suggest there might be between 30 or 40 additional suicides a year.

She said there is international evidence to suggest that the majority of undetermined deaths are suicides.

In a report from the NSRF, the Suicide Support and Information System which examined data from Cork County and City coroners found 275 suicides and 32 open verdicts recorded from September 2008 to June 2012.

The research showed the 32 open verdicts were officially classed as undetermined but met the foundation's criteria of suicide.

A death is recorded as a suicide based on information from a coroner's certificate. It that detail is inconclusive, the Garda can officially state a death was a result of intentional self-harm.

The CSO report on 2011 suicides show men are five times as likely to take their own lives.

Ireland has just below the European Union average for suicide rates, with Lithuania, Hungary and Latvia with the highest levels and Greece the lowest.

However, Ireland has the fourth highest rate for suicides in young men aged 15-24.

The suicide prevention and bereavement organisation Console called on the Government to remove the legal requirement for inquests into every death to make matters less traumatic and intrusive for grieving families.

It is urging a similar system in place in Northern Ireland and Scotland where the hearing is only held in open court if it is in the public interest.

The CSO report revealed that the suicide figures for 2011 were the highest since records began.

The crisis is worst for men aged between 45 and 64 with a rate 28 per 100,000 deaths.

The NSRF noted the pattern over the last 10 years showed a general fall in suicides up to 2007 when the economic downturn began to take hold in Ireland.

It also said this matched figures on non-fatal self harming with the number of people treated in hospital for incidents peaking at this time.

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