Suicide rates twice as high in deprived areas

As Samaritans releases a report linking inequality with a higher risk of suicide, the charity is calling on the government, businesses, industry and sector leaders to be aware of the risks of suicide and to direct supportive resources to those with unstable employment, insecure housing, low income or in areas of socioeconomic deprivation.

The report, ‘Dying from Inequality, is far-reaching and highlights clear areas of risk to communities and individuals, including the closure and downsizing of businesses, those in manual, low-skilled employment, those facing unmanageable debt and those with poor housing conditions.

Previous research has found that suicide rates in Ireland were two times higher in the most deprived areas than in least deprived.*

Samaritans’ Executive Director for Ireland Deirdre Toner said, “Suicide is an inequality issue which we have known about for some time, this report says that’s not right, it’s not fair and it’s got to change. Most important of all is that for the first time this report sets out what needs to happen to save lives. Addressing inequality would remove the barriers to help and support where it is needed most and reduce the need for it in the first place. Government, public services, employers, service providers, communities, family and friends all have a role in making sure help and support are relevant and accessible when it matters most.

“Everyone can feel overwhelmed at times in their life. People at risk of suicide may have employers, or they may seek help at job centres, or go to their GP. They may come into contact with national and local government agencies, perhaps on a daily basis. So, in the light of this report we are asking key people and organisations from across society, for example those working in housing, in businesses, medical staff, job centre managers, to all take action to make sure their service, their organisation, their community is doing all it can to promote mental health and prevent the tragedy of suicide.” 

Samaritans has already started addressing the inequalities driving people to suicide, by making their helpline number free to call, working with communities experiencing disadvantage, and by calling for a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention with actions across Government departments and state agencies, in response to the findings of the report the next steps will involve instigating working groups, in different sectors, of businesses and charities who can influence in the areas highlighted, in order to tackle this issue in a collaborative, systematic and effective way to ensure that fewer people die by suicide.

Deirdre Toner continued: “Each suicide statistic represents a person. The employee on a zero- hour contract is somebody’s parent or child. A person at risk of losing their home may be a sibling or a friend. And each one of them will leave others devastated, and potentially more disadvantaged too, if they take their own life. This is a call for us as individuals to care more and for organisations that can make a difference, to do so.”

*O’Farrell, I., Corcoran, P. & Perry, I. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2016) 51: 839. doi:10.1007/s00127-016-1205-8

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Notes to editors:

  • Dying from Inequality: Socioeconomic Disadvantage and Suicidal Behaviour is available online from 00:01 March 6th 2017. www.samaritans.ie
  • 'Dying from Inequality’: Socioeconomic Disadvantage and Suicidal Behaviour, brings together for the first time, the research and recommendations from leading experts in health economics, social policy, psychology, and suicide prevention.
  • The eight commissioned experts who authored the report are: Professor Clare Bambra, Public Health, Newcastle University, Dr Joanne Cairns, Public Health, Newcastle University, Dr Amy Chandler, Sociology, University of Edinburgh, Dr Elke Heins, Social Policy, University of Edinburgh, Dr Olivia Kirtley, Health Psychology, University of Glasgow; University of Ghent, Associate Professor David McDaid, Health Economics, London School of Economics, Professor Rory O’Connor, Health Psychology, University of Glasgow, Dr Katherine Smith, Social Policy, University of Edinburgh. The report was co-edited by Stephen Platt, Emeritus Professor of Health Policy Research, University of Edinburgh, Dr Stephanie Stace, Samaritans and Jacqui Morrissey, Samaritans.
  • You don’t have to be suicidal to call us. Whatever you’re going through, call us free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.