Ireland’s suicide rate has stabilised since the recession and provisional data suggests a decreasing trend, according to the latest report by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP).
The HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention Annual Report for 2016 and the National Suicide Research Foundation’s Self Harm Registry Report 2016 was launched yesterday by Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Mr Jim Daly, TD.
The Minister acknowledged the “excellent work being undertaken by the National Office for Suicide Prevention in leading and co-ordinating suicide prevention initiatives across the country” and welcomed the stabilisation of suicide and self-harm rates in recent years.
The NOSP report shows that in 2014 there were 486 confirmed suicide deaths in Ireland (there were 487 deaths in 2013). The majority, 399 (82.1%) of these, were men. This high male to female ratio has been a consistent feature of deaths by suicide over the years. The highest rates of suicide were observed among 45-54 year-olds (28.2 per 100,000 and 6.9 per 100,000, respectively). The lowest rates of suicide were recorded among those aged 65 years and over.
The HSE’s National Director for Mental Health, Anne O’Connor explains: “There was an increase in the suicide rate in Ireland between 2007 and 2012 which can be wholly attributed to an increase in the male rate of suicide. Data from 2012 onwards indicates a levelling-off of this rise. Provisional data for 2015 and 2016 suggests a decreasing trend in Ireland’s suicide rate.
Newly appointed Assistant National Director for NOSP, John Meehan, says:
“This downward trend is a step in the right direction but we must not forget that every death by suicide is a tragedy and has a devastating impact on families and the surrounding community. Our work in 2016 focused on trying to better understand suicide data and suicidal behaviour. We worked with the Health Research Board to assess the feasibility of collecting suicide information directly from Coroners’ files. This would give us more comprehensive data on suicide. I’m pleased to say that the feasibility study showed that it is technically, operationally and financially feasible to collect this data and I hope that we will be able to continue this important piece of work into the future.”
In 2016, the National Self-Harm Registry Ireland, which is funded by the HSE NOSP, recorded 11,485 presentations to hospital due to self-harm nationally, involving 8,909 individuals. This is in-line with 2015 figures. As with the suicide rate, there was an increase in the self-harm rate in Ireland between 2007 and 2012, with a 19% increase overall during this period. The largest increase was seen among men. There were successive decreases in the self-harm rate between 2011 and 2013, and essentially no change between 2013 and 2016. The rate in 2016 was still 10% higher than the pre-recession rate in 2007.
The role of the NOSP has changed considerably with the launch of Connecting for Life, Ireland’s National Strategy to Prevent Suicide, in 2015. Much of 2016 was dedicated to repurposing the office to support the implementation of the strategy’s 69 actions across 30 Government Departments and agencies. This involved the establishment of monitoring and evaluation structures and the development of a strategy implementation plan and communications strategy. It also included supporting the development and implementation of 21 local action plans around the country, which are key to building community capacity to prevent and respond to suicide.
In 2016, through the HSE Mental Health Division, funding of more than €11.8 million was invested in suicide prevention. Fifty per cent of this budget was invested in frontline services and organisations working in the area of suicide prevention and mental health promotion, a 19% increase on 2015 funding to partner agencies. The NOSP report details work of these funded agencies in 2016 and how their activities are aligned with the strategic goals of Connecting for Life.
Major activities led by the HSE NOSP in 2016 included
- The commissioning of a feasibility study to collect and review 2015 data from Coroners’ files with the intention of establishing more comprehensive data on suicide.
- The on-going provision of free, evidence informed suicide and self-harm training in communities nationwide. In 2016, over 6,500 individuals completed safeTALK training and over 2,500 completed ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) training.
- Continued collaboration with the Garda College in Templemore, to enhance the ability of Trainee Gardaí to prevent suicide in their work. By 2021, it is anticipated that one third of the force will have completed safeTALK and ASIST training.
- Successful delivery of the #littlethings mental health and wellbeing campaign, including a successful partnership with the GAA. An evaluation of the #littlethings campaign found that after viewing the ads: 35% of respondents did something to look after their mental health; 17% talked to a G.P. about how they were feeling.
- Completion of LGBTIreland Report – Ireland’s largest ever study of the mental health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
Key NOSP priorities for 2017/2018 include:
- Develop campaign to reduce stigma to those with mental health difficulties and suicidal behaviour
- Establish revised media engagement programme with increased emphasis on education programmes and engagement with social media platforms
- Continue to conduct research relating to priority groups, including emerging groups such as homeless people
- Launch a new on-line suicide awareness training programme
- Assess the attitudes of various health care professionals to those exhibiting suicide behaviour
- Support the development and implementation of 21 local action plans around the country
- Develop targeted training for health and social care professionals to improve recognition of, and response to, suicide risk and suicidal behaviour among people vulnerable to suicide
- Launch phased implementation of quality standards for suicide prevention services provided by statutory and non-statutory organisations
- Continue to monitor and evaluate activities under Connecting for Life.
- On-going assessment of data sources and dissemination of new data