Belfast Telegraph

12,000 self-harm incidents recorded

Almost 9,500 people were treated in hospital last year after attempting to take their own lives.

New figures reveal 12,010 incidents of self-harm were recorded in emergency departments, with many distressed men and women being rushed in several times.

Women aged in their late teens and men in their early 20s were most likely to hurt themselves, according to the National Registry of Deliberate Self Harm Ireland.

Most recent official figures show there were 495 deaths by suicide in 2010, including 405 men.

Kathleen Lynch, junior health minister, said deaths by suicide were a concern to everyone.

"We have all been made aware of suicide a some stage in our lives, whether it was a family member, friend or a member of our community," she said.

"The challenge of reducing suicide rates demands a very comprehensive and multi-layered response, with interventions at different levels and involving a range of stakeholders."

The minister was speaking as she released three reports on suicide and self-harm at the Department of Health ahead of World Suicide Day on September 10.

They showed cases of self-harm had dropped by 2% since 2011, but were still 12% higher than 2007 before the recession.

Professor Ella Arensman, director of research at the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF), said it is not acceptable that there is a two- to three-year delay in getting official rates, while many more suspected suicides go undetermined and open verdicts are recorded.

"The latest confirmed figures for suicide by the CSO for 2010 indicate that suicide rates in Ireland may be stabilising," she said.

"The highest suicide rates continue to be among young and middle-aged men."

Her report of the Suicide Support and Information System (SSIS) recorded two clusters of deaths by suicide in 2011 in Co Cork, with 13 in one 23km radius over three months and seven over two months in a 28km area.

The study into self-harm rates in 2012 found the national male rate was 195 per 100,000, down 5%, while it rose 1% for women to 228 per 100,000.

It revealed the number of men attempting to take their lives in Cork city was almost twice the national average, while it was 43% higher than the norm for women.

Limerick city was also twice the national average, with high rates of deliberate self-harm also found among men in Louth and Kerry and women in south Dublin, Wexford and Leitrim.

Elsewhere researchers found while the number of hospital cases dropped slightly, the proportion of people self-harming several times rose to a fifth of all incidents.

Figures showed 118 people self-harmed at least five times, 24 were rushed to hospital at least 10 times and the rate of repetition within three months was 17%.

"Repetition of self-harm is a strong predicator of future suicide, and so the correlation between rates of repetition and suicide rates of region warrants further investigation," researchers said.

Ms Lynch said it was obvious hospitals need to treat patients who self-harm seriously.

"We are going to have to ensure that everyone has an assessment and that equally there is a follow up," she said.

Elsewhere figures showed drugs, including prescription drugs, were taken in 69% of all acts, with alcohol involved in 38%.

Ms Lynch said the effects of alcohol on society and on young vulnerable people need to be taken seriously.

"We know that alcohol has an enormous bearing on self-harm and people who die by suicide," she said.

"The incidents of self-harm are within the areas where people drink most frequently at weekends.

"So the strategy in relation to alcohol and alcohol abuse and the effect it's having on our society will not come soon enough."

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