Recent spike coincides with economic downturn
The launch of the Young Men and Suicide Report north and south of the border last week revealed that the “recent spike in suicide rates among young males in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland coincides with the economic downturn and increasing levels of unemployment.”
Since March 2011, the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland (MHFI - www.mhfi.org) has been working on an all-Ireland ‘Young Men and Suicide Project’ (YMSP). This cross-Border initiative was jointly funded by the National Office for Suicide Prevention in the Republic of Ireland and the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland. The aim of YMSP was to identify a range of possible means to promote positive mental health among young men, and to assess the effectiveness of these approaches. The report on this project was launched last Wednesday, January 23 in Dublin and in Belfast by Minister of State Kathleen Lynch TD, and NI Minister for Health, Edwin Poots MLA.
Some of the key findings from the report found that the suicide rate among young males is amongst the highest in the EU. The rates of attempted suicide and deliberate self harm are now higher among some age bands of younger males than younger females. The factors most consistently associated with the rise in young male suicide are income inequality, family relationship difficulties, peer relationship problems, school failure, low self esteem and violence. Gender roles and identity have also been implicated in increased suicide risk amongst young men.
The report said that young men need to be supported to see emotional expression as a skill that improves with practice, and need to build an emotional vocabulary. The two key factors that are known to be effective in reducing suicide rates are physician education in depression recognition and treatment, and restricting access to lethal means of suicide.
The YMSP made recommendations which included the development and promotion of mental health that are specifically targeted at boys and young men.
The report said alcohol and substance misuse in young men must be tackled and role models should be involved in the prevention work.
Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, has called for minimum pricing in an effort to reduce alcohol-related harm. The Samaritans, Mental Health Ireland, the Irish Association of Suicidology and the College of Psychiatry of Ireland also support minimum pricing policy.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that the risk of suicide when a person is currently abusing alcohol is eight times greater than if they were not abusing alcohol. However, a person doesn’t have to be a heavy drinker or even a regular drinker to be at risk - just one occasion of heavy drinking can reduce inhibitions enough to self-harm or act on suicidal thoughts,” said the group.
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