Surveys suggest there has been an increase in suicidal ideation among young people since the pandemic – but not suicidal acts.
Shocking new findings from the Government’s latest Healthy Ireland survey show that one-in-ten people under the age of 35 in Ireland have attempted suicide.
Nearly 70% of people know someone who has died by suicide – with 14% losing someone close to them.
Meanwhile, 8% said the suicidal death has had a “significant or devastating effect on them that they still feel”.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Chief Scientist with the National Suicide Research Foundation at UCC Professor Ella Arensman explained the findings.
She said the high level of suicide attempts among young people is “obviously very worrying” – but noted that surveys have thrown up similar figures before.
She said the survey defined attempted suicide as ‘intentional self-harm by people expressing a wish to die’ – and noted that non-fatal self-harm is even more common.
The UCC professor warned that researchers have to be careful when considering whether the pandemic had an impact on the figures, noting, “when certain approaches are being applied with surveys we don’t know if we are comparing like with like”.
She said there does appear to be an increase in suicidal ideation among young people.
“What we see from previous surveys and surveys during the pandemic is that people, let’s say, thinking about suicide – which we refer to as suicidal ideation – has increased,” she said.
“But there is no consistent evidence yet that fatal self-harm or suicidal acts have increased at the same pace.”
Prof Arensman said the figures are similar in other Western countries.
“It is not a coincidence that we have seen the same patterns in the Western, mostly high-income, countries in that we have seen an increase in suicidal thinking - suicidal ideation - but not a significant increase in suicidal acts, be it fatal or non-fatal,” she said.
“So that does point to protective factors and positive developments in mental health awareness and help-seeking behaviours.”
The Healthy Ireland survey found that people with medical health issues are more likely to attempt suicide.
Some 15% of people who describe their general health as fair or bad report attempting to take their own.
Meanwhile, just under one-in-ten of those with long-standing illnesses or health problems report attempting suicide.
If you or someone you know is impacted by any of the issues discussed in this article you can contact the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116-123.