IRELAND has recorded its highest-ever number of suicides, with figures up by an astonishing 24% in 2009 compared to 2008.
And in its most detailed report to date, the National Office for Suicide Prevention’s latest annual report points to the economic downturn as being a key factor in the alarming rise.
Between 2005 and the crash in 2008, suicide numbers had actually fallen by 11%.
But there were a total of 527 suicides recorded in 2009, compared with 424 in the previous year.
The report also reveals that there has been a five per cent increase in the number of people self-harming last year compared to 2008 and an 11% increase since 2007.
Geoff Daly, NOSP director said in his report: ‘This dramatic change reflects the international trend which indicates that suicide numbers increase during periods of economic downturn.
‘The size of the increase is extremely worrying.
‘The impact of the economic downturn in 2008 and particularly in 2009, has led to substantial increases in both self harm and suicide numbers.’
Perhaps the most high-profile recession-related suicide was that of the businessman Patrick Rocca.
The 41-year-old developer – who was regarded as the ‘poster boy’ for the Celtic Tiger economy – killed himself in January 2009.
As well as leaving behind a wife and two children, he also left behind a string of debts – including €600,000 he had removed from a business partner’s company accounts to pay off a property.
When Mr Rocca – whose sister-in-law Michelle is married to singer Van Morrison – shot himself in the garden of his lavish Castleknock home in Dublin, his death was reported around the world as a symbol of the end of Ireland’s economic boom.
Weeks later, Galway developer John O’Dolan – who had invested €28m with a consortium buying the Ireland island in Dubai’s massive World development – killed himself.
In March that year, the developer Austin Cripps – who had branched out into the property business – also ended his life.
Last September, the boxer Darren Sutherland was found hanging in his south east London flat.
Despite appearing to have the boxing world at his feet, it has since emerged that he had a number of private issues that only came to light in the last week of his life.
The NOSP report comes just weeks after another report by Teagasc – the Irish Agricultural & Food Development Authority – which highlighted a rise in suicides among farmers.
It reported that 33 men employed in the farming sector killed themselves in 2009 – a rise of 24% on the number of suicides recorded for the sector in 2008.
Teagasc researcher Maria Feeney – who carried out the research for the report – said international studies had shown similarly high rates of rural suicide in places such as Australia and Scotland.
But she said three times as many farmers had died by suicide than in areas such as accountancy and engineering.
Yesterday’s NOSP report concluded: ‘Suicide in Ireland is predominantly a male problem.
‘The highest rate occurs in young men aged 20-24 years.
‘However the rates remain high for those up to and including men aged 60-64 years.’
It also said that while rates of suicide among women per head of population were low, the highest rate in women was recorded among the 50-54-year age group.
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