Dáil Éireann - Volume 499 - 27 January, 1999
Written Answers. - Suicide Incidence.
Mr. Ferris Mr. Ferris
79. Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of suicides which took place for each of the last six months on a county basis and by age breakdown; the progress to date on the implementation of the recommendations of the task force in this area; if he has satisfied himself with this rate of progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1918/99]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): Data on mortality, including suicide, are routinely published in the annual and quarterly reports on vital statistics compiled by the Central Statistics Office. Details of the most recent figures available on the number of suicides for the first two quarters of 1998, on a county basis, will be circulated in the Official Report.
The continuing rise in the incidence of suicide is a cause of considerable concern. The report of the National Task Force on Suicide which was  published in February 1998 put forward a national suicide prevention/reduction strategy and identified the various authorities with jurisdiction in suicide prevention strategies and their respective responsibilities.
Since the publication of the report, I have been in contact with my ministerial colleagues in the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Education and Science and Environment and Local Government, with a view to implementing the task force recommendations in so far as these Departments are concerned. My Department has also contacted all the statutory agencies identified in the report with jurisdiction in suicide prevention strategies requesting that the necessary measures are put in place to ensure the implementation of the recommendations which relate to their respective areas.
A core recommendation of the task force report is the establishment of a suicide research group by the chief executive officers of the health boards. The group's main responsibilities include the review of ongoing trends in suicide and parasuicide, the co-ordination of research into suicide and the making of recommendations to the chief executive officers of health boards which, it is hoped, will assist in the reversal of the growing incidence of suicide.
The group was established last year by the chief executive officers of the health boards and has met on three occasions, most recently on Tuesday, 26 January 1999. Arising from the deliberations of the group so far, it is intended to appoint a full-time researcher/co-ordinator with secretarial facilities. I have provided the necessary funds to the group to allow this important work to proceed.
As far as the provision of services on the ground are concerned, my Department is involved in a number of areas. The Irish Medicines Board have made recommendations involving certain additional restrictions in the sale of paracetamol, together with additional warnings on the packaging and information leaflets. An extensive consultation process has been conducted in relation to the board's recommendations  and the question of introducing regulations to give full statutory effect to the recommendations is under examination. I am glad to report however, that most pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists are giving effect to the board's recommendations on a voluntary basis.
The majority of health boards have established working groups to examine the implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force on Suicide. The working groups are multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary and engage in the promotion of positive mental health and the de-stigmatisation of suicide, provide information in relation to suicide and para-suicide, liaise with the media and provide training requirements for staff in relation to all aspects of suicide and para-suicide. The process of consultation with statutory and voluntary groups regarding the issue of suicide has also commenced in many health board areas. Resource officers have been or are about to be appointed in the health boards with responsibility for implementing recommendations of the task force.
I am anxious that groups at risk of suicide, in particular the young and older age sectors of our population, have greater accessibility to relevant health services at times of stress. I am committed to further developing consultant led child and adolescent and old age psychiatry services during 1999 which will assist in the early identification of suicidal behaviour and provide the necessary support and treatment to individuals at risk. A total of £1.378 million has been provided to the health boards this year in respect of continued development of these services.
An important development in the education sector which will promote self-esteem and self-confidence and enable students to develop personal and social skills is the approval by the National Council for Curriculum Assessment, NCCA, of a social, personal and health education syllabus for primary level and the junior cycle for post-primary level schools. I understand that a subcommittee of the NCCA course committee is meeting to develop an implementation strategy that will be recommended to the Department of Education and Science.
Suicides by County and age group – 1st Quarter 1998.
Suicides by County and age group – 2nd Quarter 1998.
Dáil Éireann 499 Written Answers. Suicide Incidence.