herald

Friday 20 October 2017

Half of all young suicide deaths may be part of a cluster

UP to half of young men under the age of 18 who commit suicide may have known someone else who ended their own life.

So-called 'suicide clusters', particularly among younger people, are becoming a worrying issue in this country, according to a new report.

The new Suicide In Modern Ireland survey has identified, for the first time here, the possible true extent of suicide clusters, which involve a number of cases of suicide deaths in a particular area.

The report, authored by Professor Kevin Malone of UCD, has identified "very fragmented communities in the aftermath of a suicide event or events".

Across all ages, it found as many as 10pc of suicide deaths in this country may be part of a cluster.

Ireland has the fourth highest rate of suicide amongst young males in the EU and now Turn The Tide On Suicide is calling for a Suicide Prevention Authority to reverse this trend.

On average, every 18 days, a child under 18 in Ireland dies by suicide.

In total, over 500 people a year commit suicide, with men accounting for 84pc.

Younger men are particularly at risk, which prompted Kerry teenager Donal Walsh, who died from cancer last week, to publicly appeal to young people not to end their lives.

 

ANECDOTES

According to Prof Malone, their findings have identified the possible true extent of suicide clusters.

"I think this has been previously under-estimated. If you just rely on anecdotes, you will only see part of the problem. We systematically examined for clustering in every case," said Prof Malone.

"Our findings suggest that up to 50pc of our under 18 suicide deaths in Ireland may be part of couplets or clusters.

"A young suicide death is a very powerful and destabilising social force. It can reverberate intensely in smaller closed communities, such that the whole community is at increased risk for at least a year, and also at anniversaries," he said.

"We have to place cluster-busting in our suicide prevention agenda. We need a national, year-round real-time early-warning system – it can't just be in schools, as several of these young suicide deaths occur in kids who have left the school system," he said.

Meanwhile, the report has called for an early detection adolescent depression screening programme to be considered.

Alcohol, mental illness and bullying are all highlighted as factors contributing to suicides among young people

The report urged that there should be a "deeper understanding of the role and culture of alcohol and its consumption in teens and young adults".

fdillon@herald.ie

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