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Coronial Data Feasibility Study (Sept 2017)

Using Coronial Data to Identify Deaths in People with Risk Factors for Self-harm

Report on the Outcome of a Feasibility Study


This study explores the feasibility of using the existing methodology, logistics and expertise of the National Drug Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) to collect data on suicides and deaths in people with risk factors for self-harm.


Key Points

  • Accurate suicide data is the cornerstone of effective suicide prevention.
  • In Ireland the decision as to whether someone has died by suicide is a legal one made by Coroners based on the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ rather than a ‘balance of probabilities’ approach
  • There is a significant body of evidence related to the limitations of suicide statistics. Under-reporting suicide statistics can lead to misinformed and misdirected prevention, intervention and postvention activities.
  • The annual suicide rate, reported by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and which is constrained by a two-year time lag, remains the most widely used population-level suicide metric in Ireland.
  • The National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) is a national epidemiological database maintained by the HRB, which records all deaths due to drug and alcohol poisoning, and all deaths among drug users and those who are alcohol dependent.
  • The main source of data for the NDRDI comes from closed Coronial files in all Coroners districts in Ireland.
  • This study showed that it is (technically, operationally and financially) feasible to collect information on suspected suicide deaths in people with risk factors for self-harm from coronial files using the existing methodology and logistics of the NDRDI.
  • The experience of the research nurses and the scale of the fieldwork ensures a comprehensive data set with adequate specificity.
  • This can help achieve Strategic Goal 7 contained within ‘Connecting for Life’, Ireland’s National Strategy to Reduce Suicide (2015-2020) which recognises the need to improve the quality of and access to surveillance data.

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