Deepening insights into levels of suicide in Ireland

Researcher: Ena Lynn, HRB National Health Information Systems

The HRB is supporting the National Office for Suicide Prevention to examine data about national levels of suicide and self-harm.
In Summary

Hundreds of people in Ireland die by suicide each year. There is a recognised need for better quality monitoring in Ireland of deaths by suicide and of deaths in people who have risk factors for self-harm. A feasibility study by the HRB has shown the value of using the same approach taken to gather data from coronial files for the National Drugs-Related Deaths Index, to monitor suicide recorded in Ireland.

The Problem

Suicide is a legal ruling; a legal verdict of suicide is recorded if the coroner finds evidence of death by suicide ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ rather than a ‘balance of probabilities’ approach. It is widely recognised that the latter is a high legal standard, and it is not always reached.

Connecting for Life, Ireland’s National Strategy to Reduce Suicide (2015-2020) recognises the need to improve the quality of and access to data about suicide and self-harm in Ireland.

The Project

The HRB maintains the National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI), a database that records all deaths due to drug and alcohol poisoning, and all deaths among drug users and those who are alcohol dependent.

The National Office for Suicide Prevention contacted the HRB to explore whether the methods and expertise involved in maintaining the NDRDI could be used to examine data from coronial files and get more insights about the numbers of suicides and deaths in people with risk factors for self-harm.

The Outcomes

We now know that:-

It is technically, operationally and financially feasible to collect data from coronial files about suicide and deaths in people with risk factors for self-harm using the existing methodologies, expertise and logistics of the NDRDI.

As a result of the feasibility study, the HRB will collect data related to suicide and self-harm from coronial files on behalf of the National Office for Suicide Prevention for a three-year period.

Ena Lynn, Research Officer with the HRB National Health Information Systems, says:

'The results of this feasibility study were very positive. As the relationships with all coroners are already established and the database and protocols are already in place, this partnership approach between the HRB and NOSP is the most cost effective and efficient way to collect data from coronial files'.