Suicide accounts for 30% of young deaths

19/10/2004 - 07:53:56

Suicide accounts for almost a third of all deaths in the 15-24 age group in Ireland, according to a report published today.

The shock figure of 30% is being revealed at a conference on youth suicide prevention in Belfast.

Health officials from North and South have joined together in a bid to tackle the terrible loss of life which been rising in recent years.

The report – Youth suicide prevention an evidence briefing – makes a series of recommendations on how the governments north and south should act to prevent youth suicide.

It is being launched by Dr Henrietta Campbell, the chief medical officer for Northern Ireland.

Dr Philip Crowley, one of the report’s authors, said more people in the 15-24 age group were taking their own lives than were killed in road accidents.

The situation was worst in the Republic, he said, though suicide rates were growing on both sides of the border.

In the Republic there were 12 suicides in the age group per 100,000 of population in 1991, but it had risen to 17.5 by 2001. In Northern Ireland the rate rose from 10.5 to 14.2 over the period.

Dr Crowley said: “Unemployment and suicide are linked, especially in young men and rates of suicidal behaviour are higher among manual occupation groups.

“Social measures need to prevent suicide by addressing the broader socio-economic and environmental determinants of health.”

Youth Suicide Prevention is a join initiative between the Health Development Agency the Institute of Public Health in Ireland and Programme for Action for Children in Ireland.

It has identified key risk factors that need attention when developing future youth suicide prevention programmes:

:: a previous history of suicide.

:: a history of depression.

:: substance misuse.

:: poor family circumstances.

:: certain personality traits such as poor problem-solving ability, impulsiveness and aggression.

:: the availability of means to commit suicide.

Dr Jane Wilde, director of the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, said: “Suicide is a very important public health issue in Northern Ireland and Ireland, causing real concern in the community, and we all wish to understand more to help in its prevention.”

She said the report was a contribution to their knowledge and it was hoped it would help those working in the area.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of evidence and guidance at the HDA added: “We recommend systematic evaluation of the existing approaches that appear to work.

“We need new research to be undertaken with large youth samples to find out reliably what factors will lead to a reduction in suicide in young people.”

Key recommendations in the report include:

:: Interventions to improve youth mental heath with a focus on suicide as an outcome should be reviewed and if there is a lack of evidence then initiatives should be developed and evaluated.

:: Targeted interventions for youth suicide among ethnic minorities, those with disabilities and other minority youth groups need to be developed and evaluated.

:: The impact of reducing access to the means of suicide and the role of the media should be further researched.

:: There is a need for studies on young people who have deliberately harmed themselves and who are not admitted to hospital.

:: Future research on risk factors and suicide prevention interventions should involve young people, recognise diversity and take into account the needs of specific minority groups, especially those in care and homeless youths.

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