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Relationship breakdown is one of the biggest causes of suicide in Ireland, according to a new study.
The study showed that 65.8pc of the 190 people who had committed suicide in the city and county of Cork between September 2008 and March 2011 had experienced serious relationship problems in their lives.
The study, the First Report of the Suicide Support and Information System, found that a disruption of a primary relationship in the month before suicide was a factor in 46.8pc of cases.
According to the study, significant losses, including relationships, family members, friends and finances were precipitating factors in the month leading up to suicide in 64.5pc of cases, while significant life changes were precipitating factors in 33.9pc of suicides.
In the year prior to suicide, more than half of the people involved (52.8pc) had experience serious relationship problems.
Loneliness over a long period of time in the year prior to suicide was reported for 46.6pc. Other commonly reported negative events in the year prior to suicide were serious financial problems (44.3pc), problems with eating (e.g. overeating or less/not eating), unemployment (31.1pc), problems in bringing up children (28.1pc), mental maltreatment by a partner (27.8pc) and failure in achieving an important goal (19.7pc).
Other negative events leading to suicide included; problems in bringing up children (43.8), addiction to alcohol, drugs or medication (41.3pc), serious financial problems (39.7pc), the experience of loneliness over a long period of time (37.9pc) and a sudden and unexpected emergency (36.8pc).
Commonly reported negative and traumatic events that occurred in the childhood and early adolescence of those who died by suicide included; problems with school (38.7pc); problems in making contact with others (18.3pc); the loss of a close family member or close friend to death (18pc).
Mental maltreatment by a family member or friend and physical maltreatment by parent(s) or carer(s) were reported for 16.4pc and 15.8pc respectively.
Reviews of international psychological autopsy studies show that marital/relationship problems are one of the five most important risk factors for suicide, in addition to alcohol abuse, mood disorders, unemployment a history of self harm.
The study also showed that nearly four out of five people who died through suicide, 78.1pc, had been abusing alcohol in the year prior to their death,
The report includes data on 190 consecutive cases of suicide in Cork city and county between September 2008 and March 2011.
The high number of suicide deaths involving alcohol abuse has prompted the director of research with the National Suicide Research Foundation, Ella Arensman, to call for a warning to be placed on all alcoholic products stating that “excessive use of alcohol can cause mental health problems,” the Irish Times reports.
Dr Arensman said this finding needed to be taken very seriously.
In terms of risk factors, the SSIS report highlighted a clear and higher than expected link between the recession and suicide – more than 38 per cent of those who died by suicide were unemployed and 32.8 per cent had been working in the construction sector.
Other frequently reported occupations included agriculture, students, the medical profession, business and commerce, the education sector, and taxi drivers. However, Dr Arensman pointed out that there were a multitude of other risk factors involved in these deaths.
“More than two-thirds had already experienced the loss of a family member or friend through suicide, which is also much higher than expected,” she said. “This highlights how important it is that bereavement support counsellors be alert to other family members who may be at risk following a death through suicide.
“In the year prior to death, over 80 per cent of people studied had been in contact with their GP and the majority had contacted their GP four times or more during the year before their death.
“This finding underlines the need for more awareness among GPs to pick up the subtle signs of suicidality. The National Office for Suicide Prevention is in the process of implementing national training for GPs in conjunction with the Irish College of General Practitioners, which will be most welcome.”
Dr Arensman noted that researchers were also struck by the fact that two-thirds of families reported their deceased family members had received no apparent benefit from the mental health outpatient services they attended, highlighting a need for a serious review of these services.
The SSIS report included a cluster of 19 suicides involving males aged 14-36 between September 2008 and December 2010 in a small area of Co Cork.
This revealed a risk profile characterised by severe alcohol and drug abuse, often starting in early adolescence; exposure to and grief related to the loss of a friend by suicide; non-communication of suicidal intent; over-attachment to peers; and glorification of suicide.
Figures released last week showed the number of suicides registered in Ireland rose to 525 in 2011, an increase of 7 per cent on the previous year.
The data from the Central Statistics Office revealed a total of 439 men and 86 women were recorded as having taken their own lives, the majority of whom were aged 15-44.