'Direct link' between conflict and suicide

Published Thursday, 20 March 2014
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A direct link has been found between suicidal behaviour in Northern Ireland and having experienced traumatic and conflict related events.

'Direct link' between conflict and suicide
The University of Ulster says it is the first time ever the link has been made. (© UTV)

The findings are based on extensive data collected by the University of Ulster during a major study of the population's mental health.

Detailed analysis of suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts was collated in a sample of over 4000 people.

The research was carried out as part of the World Health Organisation's World Mental Health Survey Initiative.

It is one of a series of identical studies undertaken in over 30 countries across the world, assessing mental health based on psychiatric criteria and symptoms.

Comparisons with the other international studies that have been published show that the north has one of the highest rates of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with high levels of respondents experiencing violence associated with the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Lead author of the paper is Professor Siobhan O'Neill from the Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing at the university's Magee Campus.

"This is the first time evidence clearly demonstrating a trend of suicidal behaviour in people who have suffered, or witnessed, a traumatic, conflict related event has been found," she said.

"The research also identifies lower levels of suicide attempts in this group, suggesting more worryingly, that this group may be more likely to actually take their own life on the first attempt

"Our previous research has already shown that people who have been affected by the conflict have more severe and long lasting mental disorders. This new research is hugely significant because it demonstrates a new link between conflict and thinking about suicide."

Prof O'Neill, a Director of the Irish Association of Suicidology, added: "These University of Ulster findings are important and valuable as they can now help to shape and enhance the support available to vulnerable people, ensure healthcare providers are aware of new risk patterns, can recognise behaviour patterns and identify those at highest risk."

© UTV News
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