12/08/2008

Suicides On The Rise - But Ballymoney Folk Living Longest

New statistics released by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, revealing geographical divisions across the island, show Offaly has Ireland's highest suicide rate.

The new report also found suicide rates are 47% higher in the Irish Republic than in Northern Ireland.

However, there's some grounds for optimism too as the all-island study found that Ballymoney in Co Antrim has the highest life expectancy for men and women on the island - also reporting that Roscommon has the highest life expectancy in the Irish Republic.

However, Leitrim and Limerick have the lowest life expectancy for men and women respectively while Belfast, meanwhile, has the highest rate of premature deaths in NI, and Louth the highest rate in Ireland.

The number-crunching report isn't a major surprise to medical professionals though - as figures were already available on the rising toll - who also identified alcohol as a major factor in self-harm.

In March 2008 another medical report revealed that suicide rates in Ireland were three times higher than what they were in the 1950s and 1960s.
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The report, called 'Suicide, Attempted Suicide and Prevention in Ireland and Elsewhere', was published by the Health Research Board (HRB), and found that there was considerable under-reporting of suicide in official records between 1864 and 1980, which makes it difficult to state whether suicide rates have actually risen in the long-term over the 1864-2006 study period.

But it said that evidence comparing clinical data and official data in the 1950s and 1960s does indicate that in Ireland at the time, actual suicide was three times greater than what was officially recorded.

Speaking in March, Dr Dermot Walsh, Principal Investigator in mental health at the HRB, said: "Using this as a basis, we can determine broad long-term changes in Irish suicide rates.

"The findings show that Irish suicide rates among males are, and always have been, three to four times greater than those of females, which is in keeping with international experience.

"The increase in suicide in Ireland during the late 1980s and '90s was predominantly among males aged 15 -34 years."

But the earlier report stated that the reasons behind suicide and what influences it "are not conclusive" and that controlling the link between alcohol and suicide may be the only evidence-based measure to prevent suicide and deliberate self-harm.

"A variety of reports have dealt with addressing alcohol-related problems.

"But failure to implement measures that actually do work, such as increasing prices, reducing the availability of points of sale and tightening controls on advertising is disappointing and means that we are not dealing with a known and preventable factor in suicide," said Dr Walsh.

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