By Kieva McLaughlin
In 2001, 13.5 out of every 100,000 people in Ireland died by suicide, a rate of death that has never been exceeded since. The lowest rate of suicide over the last fourteen years was in 2015, with 9.7 out of every 100,000 people taking their own life.
The numbers of suicides have generally been steadily decreasing since 2001. However, this stopped between 2008 and 2012, and the rate of suicide fluctuated between 11.1 and 12.4 per 100,0000 people during the recession. The numbers then returned to the 2007 rate of 10.6 in 2013 and have continued to decrease since then.
The increase in suicides between 2008 and 2012 can at least partly be attributed to the recession. Increased unemployment combined with depression and substance abuse was found to be some of the main factors in people taking their life during this time, according to a report by the Suicide Research Foundation.
During the recession, many people lost their jobs and had no means to support their families and in a lot of cases lost their homes. Psychotherapist Olivia Fox talks about how challenging being unemployed can be for people.
She said: “It can lead to depression and a feeling of worthlessness. In general, we could see an increase of hopelessness as people who had worked hard to get a job and a roof over their head saw their life work wiped out overnight.
“Even in this modern world of gender equality, men often psychologically feel the burden of being the ‘provider’ and when they can no longer do so, the resulting depression, pressure and hopelessness can have devastating consequences on the mental health of some.”
The suicide rates during the recession were not in fact higher than some of the early Celtic Tiger years but rather returned to higher figures after a decreasing trend in the previous few years.
In 2015, nearly five times as many males died by suicide (375) in Ireland as females (76) and again it’s important to point out that last year’s figures are provisional. We do however, have one of the highest rates of male suicide in the world with nearly eight males taking their lives every week.
Only 25% of males who take their own lives have a history of self-harm in comparison to 50% of females. Under 40% of males are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder before taking their life while 70% of females are. More women contemplate and attempt suicide than men so where does the big gap come from?
Olivia Fox attributes it to the fact women are less likely to follow through when they think about the consequences.
“Men are more likely to act impulsively there and then without giving consideration to the outcome. Also the method people use to take their own life causes a disparity in the sexes. Women tend to overdose whereas men tend to use more violent methods, such as hanging or shooting which are more likely to result in death.”
Another reason she explains is that, “Men are less likely to talk about their feelings or express emotion. This can result in them isolating themselves from any personal or social supports and in them drinking more. Alcohol involvement in death by suicide seems to be higher in men than women.”
The area with the most suicides in 2015 was Carlow, with 21.2 suicides per 100,000 people, more than the double the national average.
The figures show a large disparity from cities and their surrounding rural areas. Waterford City reported no suicides in 2015 but the rate more than doubled in the county area from 8.8 in 2014. Galway City had a small increase from 11.1 per 100,00 in 2014 to 12.7 in 2015, but the surrounding county area’s figure rose more dramatically from 10.2 to 17.4.