FOUR children aged 14 or younger died by suicide last year.
The children, three boys and a girl, were among 460 people who took their own lives in 2007, a death toll that represents a rise of 12% over the 409 suicides that took place in 2006.
The true number could be higher, however, as 119 deaths from injury or poisoning were classified as “events of undetermined intent”. These included two children aged 14 or under.
Males accounted for 398 suicides, four out of five of all such deaths, according to the figures from the Central Statistics Office.
The biggest single number of suicides recorded — 89 — was among men in the 25-34 age group.
By contrast, the 55-64 age group was the greatest risk group among women, although female suicides were evenly distributed across all the age groups.
Suicide is still a relatively low cause of death in Ireland, especially when compared with heart disease and strokes, which caused 9,931 deaths; cancer, which took 7,844 lives; and lung conditions, which killed 3,541.
However, the overall suicide toll of 460 last year was the highest in three years and the four deaths recorded in the 5-14 age group was higher than in any of the previous six years. There were two such deaths in 2006, three in 2005, two in 2004 and 2003, none in 2002 and two in 2001.
Although research is continuing and the National Office for Suicide Prevention does carry out analysis on the suicide figures in Ireland, the small numbers that occur in the 14 years and younger age group do not allow analysts to draw any clear conclusions, said a HSE spokesperson.
Lloyd Byrne, regional manager with the ISPCC, said the figures were sad, but not surprising. The organisation’s Childline service last year received 814 calls from suicidal children and teenagers and 204 calls from children who had already self-harmed.
“The numbers are increasing, probably because children are more aware of the service and more able to contact it, because they have mobile phones, but it also shows a serious underlying problem,” he said.
Mr Byrne added that demand for Childline showed official services were lacking. “Our busiest times are evenings and at weekends when social services are not available. We need a proper out-of-hours support system for children,” he said.
The Samaritans’ regional publicity officer, Mary Malcolm, said while the organisation was not in a position to collect statistics, anecdotally its volunteers dealt with a lot of young callers.
Childline: 1800 666666 Samaritans: 1850 609090.
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