Dáil Éireann - Volume 602 - 11 May, 2005

Written Answers. - Suicide Incidence.

  72. Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Mini[506] ster for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the recent comments (details supplied) made by the Coroner for County Offaly; the measures she intends to take to deal with the huge toll of life being taken by suicide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15344/05]

  Mr. T. O’Malley: Suicide is a serious social problem in this country with 444 deaths from suicide registered in 2003. Young males have shown a significant increase in the rate of suicide in the last decade, with 305 such deaths in 1994 rising to 358 in 2003. However, it is important to point out that youth suicide in Ireland is not the highest in the EU. The most recent analysis suggests it is fifth highest. In terms of the overall suicide rate, Ireland ranks 17th in the EU. Recent figures suggest that the rate has stopped rising but it is correct to say that we experienced probably the fastest rising rate in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s, albeit from a low base rate. These are all worrying trends which require further research so that better strategies are developed to help people who are particularly at risk.

Since the publication of the report of the National Task Force on Suicide in 1998, there has been a positive and committed response from both the statutory and voluntary sectors towards finding ways of tackling the tragic problem of suicide. In response to the recommendations of the task force, the National Suicide Review Group was established by the health boards and membership of the group includes experts in the areas of mental health, public health and research. Resource officers have been appointed in all Health Service Executive areas with specific responsibility for implementing the task force’s recommendations. The resource officers also engage in the promotion of positive mental health, the de-stigmatisation of suicide and provide information in relation to suicide and parasuicide within their area.

My Department has given special attention over the past number of years to the resourcing of suicide prevention initiatives. Since the publication of the task force report in 1998, a cumulative total of more than €17.5 million has been provided since towards suicide prevention programmes and for research. Support is also provided by my Department for the ongoing work of many organisations such as Mental Health Ireland, GROW, Aware and Schizophrenia Ireland in raising public awareness of mental health issues.

I share the public concern about the level of suicides in this country and I am fully committed to the intensification of suicide prevention measures and research programmes and in this regard, work is now well under way on the preparation of a national strategy for action on suicide prevention. This strategy, which is being prepared by the Project Management Unit, HSE — formerly HeBE — in partnership with the National [507] Suicide Review Group and supported by the Department of Health and Children, will be action-based from the outset and will build on existing policy. All measures aimed at reducing the number of deaths by suicide will be considered in the context of the preparation of this strategy, which will be published later this year.