Suicide in Northern Ireland: epidemiology, risk factors, and prevention

Siobhan O'Neill, Rory O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The rates of suicide and self-harm in Northern Ireland are high, and have increased from 143 registered suicides in 1996 to 313 in 2010 and 318 in 2015. This review summarises the epidemiology of suicidal behaviour, as well as the evidence from a small number of studies that have identified risk factors associated with the high suicide rates here. These were mental illness, trauma, exposure to the conflict, deprivation, relationship problems, employment difficulties, financial difficulties, being LGBT, adversities and alcohol or drug use. It highlights key challenges and opportunities for suicide prevention, emphasising a lifespan approach. More needs to be done to address the relationship between substance misuse and suicide. Future research and prevention efforts should also focus on the transgenerational impact of the conflict, youth suicide, suicide prevention among minority groups and the criminal justice context. The delivery and access to suicide-specific psychosocial interventions need to be prioritised, more support for people in crisis is required, as well as interventions for mental illness. Protect Life 2, the national suicide prevention strategy, needs to be implemented in full. Given the legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland, all suicide prevention efforts should be trauma-informed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLancet Psychiatry
Early online date29 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jan 2020



  • suicide prevention
  • self harm

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