Recorded rates of suicide in NI have fallen since lockdown began

Figures obtained by the News Letter show that the number of suicides during lockdown is in fact lower than before the pandemic struck.

By Adam Kula
Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 2:46 pm
There has been a fall in the number of calls to the Lifeline service
There has been a fall in the number of calls to the Lifeline service

The figures come from the Coroners Service which routinely carries out inquests into unexpected or unnatural deaths.

Furthermore, there has been a drop in the number of calls to the government-backed suicide helpline in Northern Ireland during the Covid crisis.

All this comes amid claims of a drastic deterioration in mental health during the lockdown period.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

However, other official figures indicate a climb in the number of suicides.

The Coroners Service figures were obtained by the News Letter via a Freedom of Information request.

They are as follows:

> From the start of April 2020 to the end of February 2021, there were 124 suicides.

> During the same period in 2019 / 2020, there were 190.

> And during the same period in 2018 / 2019, there were 175.

The figures above relate to cases reported to the Coroners Service during those time periods, where a final ruling on has been made.

The Coroners Service was asked if the drop in suicides could just be down to a slowdown in the number of cases being concluded due to coronavirus, but it indicated this was not the case.

Meanwhile there has been a drop in the number of calls to Lifeline – the Public Health Agency-funded 24-hour hotline, run by the Belfast Trust.

It handles phonecalls about suicidal feelings, despair and depression, and said that there has been “a decrease in the volume of calls received within the timeframe specified”.

This is including “a decrease in the number of calls recorded as high risk”.

This all stands in stark contrast to the data held by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), which states that during 2019 there were 209 cases listed under the heading “suicide, including intentional self-harm and events of undetermined intent”.

However, the figures for 2020 show 263 deaths in the same category – a steep rise.

Male suicides vastly outstrip female ones, the NISRA numbers show. In 2019 the data shows 157 of the suicide / undetermined death toll was male, whilst 52 was female.

> To reach Lifeline, call 0808 808 8000

For more from this report, see here:

——— ———

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Alistair Bushe