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.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 2:46 pm
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.

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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:

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