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Ireland’s suicide rate has stabilised since the recession and HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) has claimed that provisional data suggests a decreasing trend.

Minister Jim Daly welcomed the decline in suicide rates at the NOSP 2016 report launch, while noting that there remains much to do: “There are over 800,000 lives, not far off a million lives, lost every year to suicide and it is estimated that for every life that is lost, up to 20 more will attempt it. It is a daunting challenge for all of us as a society to deal with this issue”.

He commended the NOSP for “leading from the front” at the launch of their annual report for 2016 and of the National Suicide Research Foundation’s ‘Self Harm Registry’ report 2016 today (Wednesday 27th September).

The Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People acknowledged that: “Behind all the data and the research and the statistics and percentages are real lives”.

“It’s the awareness of that pain that drives and motivates all of us to work together”, he continued, expressing his hope that continuing with such research may eventually minimise the occurrence of suicide and save some of the heartache that surrounds it.

According to the report, in 2014 there were 486 confirmed suicide deaths in Ireland (one less than in 2013). The majority, 399 (82.1 per cent) of these, were men. This high male to female ratio has been a consistent feature of deaths by suicide over the years.

The HSE’s National Director for Mental Health, Anne O’Connor explained: “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, stated: “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”.

They worked with the Health Research Board to assess the feasibility of collecting suicide information directly from Coroners’ files to establish more comprehensive data on suicide in Ireland.

He commented: “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.

Similar to the suicide rate, there was an increase in the self-harm rate in Ireland between 2007 and 2012 (19 per cent), followed by decreases in the self-harm rate between 2011 and 2013, and little alteration 2013 and 2016. The rate in 2016 remained 10 per cent higher than the pre-recession rate in 2007.

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 per cent increase on 2015 funding to partner agencies.

Among their listed key priorities for 2017/18 were the development of a campaign to reduce stigma surrounding mental health difficulties and suicidal behaviour and to continue researching suicide prevalence in priority groups, such as homeless people

They also intend to support the implementation of 21 local action plans across the country, and to develop targeted training for health and social care professionals to improve recognition of, and response to, suicide risk and suicidal behaviour among vulnerable people.

Responding to the released figures, stating that men aged between 45-54 are most likely to die by suicide, Derek McDonnell, programme director of Mojo, said that Ireland still has a long was to go to tackle mental health challenges: “As is the trend, male suicide rates are the highest by far with particular high percentages with men aged 45-54, that is why our programmes are aimed at reducing the high levels of male suicide rates in Ireland”.

The Mojo Programme was initiated by South Dublin County Partnership as a pilot programme, funded by the NOSP in 2011. It focuses on targeting men 18 and over, following evidence that the risk of suicide amongst this cohort is extremely high.