Research

Irish Probable Suicide Deaths Study

IPSDS website header

About the IPSDS

The Irish Probable Suicide Deaths Study (IPSDS) presents information on probable suicide deaths in Ireland, for a four year period from 2015 to 2018. The aims of the study were to:

  1. Improve our understanding of the characteristics of people who have died by probable suicide in Ireland
  2. Identify risk factors for probable suicide
  3. Inform the planning, implementation and evaluation of suicide prevention measures in Ireland.

‘Probable’ suicide

This study presents information on probable suicide deaths, by looking at information contained in completed coronial files (from Coroners) through a wide lens.

In Ireland, the current legal test for a coroner’s verdict of suicide includes a requirement that the self-killing and intention are proved ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. This study includes these deaths. However, the study also includes additional deaths that are ‘more likely than not’ to have been death by suicide, that is, on the ‘balance of probabilities’.

In applying this broad criteria for inclusion, this study has therefore captured, analysed and presented more deaths than are typically included in official suicide statistics in Ireland, as published by the Central Statistics Office. It also provides much more in-depth information on the characteristics of people who have died.

The study has involved a secondary analysis of existing data. This means that the existing data in coronial files was not originally collected or recorded with this study in mind. Therefore, additional information that may have been of interest in this study, may not have been routinely available or recorded in those files.

Key findings

The IPSDS presents information of 2,349 deaths by probable suicide for a four year period from 2015 to 2018. It has used anonymised information, so that no individual person can be, or has been, identified by the authors.

Of these people who died by probable suicide:

  • 76% were men, 24% were women
  • The highest numbers were between the ages of 35 and 54
  • 50% were known to be single at their time of death
  • 38% were known to be parents
  • 66% had a history of a mental health condition
  • 51% were known to have been in contact with medical services before their death
  • 79% had past adverse life events or stressors
  • 33% had a lifetime substance use history
  • 23% had a history of previous self-harm
  • 33% were in paid employment and 26% were unemployed
  • 30% of their deaths occurred in a public location.

The full study outlines a wide range of information on these deaths by probable suicide, including sociodemographic information, clinical risk factors, adverse life events, and methods and places of death.

Background

The IPSDS is the result of an ongoing collaboration between the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP), the Coroners Service and the Health Research Board (HRB), with support from the Department of Health. To gather information from coronial files for the study, the methodology and logistics of the HRBs National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) were used. The governance, processes and methods of analysis are described in more detail, in the full study.

Support information

Behind every number, graph, and table of findings reported in the IPSDS, are real lives that were lived and that have been lost.

The experiences of any one person cannot be fully represented by a statistic. This is something the authors have tried to bear in mind when compiling this study. Their ultimate goal is to prevent suicide by providing a wider understanding of suicidal behaviour in Ireland, with a view to influencing policy and practice intended to save lives in the future.

Families, friends and communities who have been bereaved by suicide may find some of the information in this study sensitive, upsetting or triggering. Readers should be mindful of this, and be aware of their own needs and self-care in this space.

Remember:

  • Listening support is available anytime day or night, from Samaritans on Freephone 116 123, visit www.samaritans.ie.
  • More information on mental health, services and supports is available at www.yourmentalhealth.ie.
  • Information on bereavement, and suicide-bereavement services and supports, is available here.
  • If you are a journalist or media professional covering a suicide-related issue, consider the Samaritans Ireland Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide because of the potentially damaging consequences of irresponsible reporting. In particular, the guidelines advise on terminology to use and include links to sources of support for anyone affected by the themes in any coverage.
  • Information on crisis supports and helplines in over 50 countries, is also available from the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP).

Enquiries

HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP), email info@nosp.ie.

For press enquiries, email press@hse.ie.

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