New studies looking at instances of young suicide point to alarming increases when compared to the levels in the 1990s.

The  study is by Professor Kevin Malone from UCD, who will address this issue when he speaks at the Merriman Summer School in Clare today (Friday, August 19th).

His studies showed that from 2003-2008, there was a 40% rise in the rate of suicide in the 15-17 year age group, when compared to the period 1993-1998.

The suicide rate has also doubled for girls under 18 years of age, while the level of ‘open verdicts’ reported by coroners had also risen hugely since the 1990s perhaps pointing to an under reporting of the issue.

There isn’t a town or village in County Clare or Ireland which hasn’t in some way being affected by suicide. It is a heartbreaking experience for any family to have a loved one die from suicide. These figures are very alarming, particularly in relation to young people. While they may be somewhat distorted by the fact Ireland has one of the largest under-18 populations in the EU, there is no getting away from the fact that suicide is a huge issue now in Irish society.

I would encourage any persons with concern to attend Prof Kevin Malone’s talk at the Merriman Summer School later this week and I want to commend the school for taking on this issue and highlighting it. For too long, suicide was not talked about and secrecy surrounded the subject.

One fact from the study which I found particularly worrying was that almost half of those under 18 who committed suicide had been exposed to the suicide of a loved one or a peer in the previous six months. We must do more as a society, in terms of our parental advice, in terms of how our schools deal with the issue and in terms of the co-ordination of our social services and counselling services in these cases in particular.

The bottom line from this study is that two children in Ireland are taking their lives through suicide every month. That is a shocking statistic with so much hurt and pain for the families, friends and communities who are left behind. We as a Government and society need to do a lot more to reduce that alarming rate. I feel we need to be looking at how other Countries deal with the issue and use elements of their approach to combating suicide in a comprehensive coordinated way particularly in light of these new shocking suicide figures.