Suicide and homicide in people with mental illness – launch of challenging report

Health Minister Edwin Poots today launched the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, one of four research studies funded by Health and Social Care Research and Development Division, Public Health Agency.
The Inquiry aims to improve mental health services in Northern Ireland and to help reduce the risk of suicide or homicide by people with mental illness.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Poots said: “Suicide presents a complex and deeply concerning challenge for all sectors of society in Northern Ireland. A total of 313 suicides were recorded here is 2010 – the highest figure ever recorded in Northern Ireland. Clearly suicide is an issue that is not going to go away.
“It is therefore crucial that we understand who is most at risk, the reasons why some people take a decision to end their lives, and what further actions we need to take to prevent suicide.”
The Inquiry indicated that the number and rate of suicide in the general population here increased from 1998 to 2008. It also highlighted:

  • The largest difference between suicide rates in NI and other UK countries was in young people; 
  • 29% of all suicides were by people who had been in contact with mental health services in the previous 12 months;
  • Alcohol misuse was a common feature of patient suicide and has become more common;
  • Social adversity and isolation were common among patient suicide cases with, for example, high unemployment;
  • There were no cases of stranger homicide by people with mental illness.

The Minister continued: “The upward trend in these tragic deaths has occurred despite strenuous suicide efforts across the statutory, community and voluntary sectors. Frontline preventative services that respond promptly and effectively when people are suicidal remain essential and I have therefore given a commitment to protect suicide prevention funding.
“However, broader long-term action across Government and all sectors of society is necessary to address the root cause of suicide. Early intervention for positive mental health and strong emotional resilience in young people, together with wider measures to improve quality of life are required.”
Dr Eddie Rooney, PHA Chief Executive described the importance of the Report saying: “This report illustrates the importance of research in improving our understanding of why a person may take their own life. It adds to the growing body of local evidence which will enhance our understanding of suicide, and contribute to the delivery of effective and accessible support and treatment services. The Public Health Agency will use this evidence in continuing to work in partnership all sectors to promote mental health and wellbeing and to prevent this tragic loss of life.”
The findings of the Inquiry will assist in fine tuning policy and practice for the care of people within mental health services and will help to prevent deaths. Its implications include continuing to address stigma associated with mental illness, improving risk assessments of, and contact with, patients who have been discharged, addressing self harming, and providing targeted alcohol/drug misuse interventions for people with mental illness.
Mr Poots concluded: “The Inquiry has had a vital role in gathering national data on suicide and homicide together with clinical information on mental health service users and I wish to commend Professor Louis Appleby and his team for their diligent research.
“The Inquiry’s findings will challenge our Health and Social Care system to ensure that their mental health services are accessible, responsive and fit-for-purpose when dealing with vulnerable people.”

Further information

Notes to the editor

  1. The National Confidential inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness is one of three UK-wide Confidential Inquiries. It is based in Manchester University and is led by Professor Louis Appleby who is also National Director of Mental Health in England.
  2. The Inquiry collates data on all suicides and homicides nationally, and collects detailed clinical information on patients who had contact with specialist mental health services before completing suicide, or committing homicide. The Inquiry has been in operation since 1992; data from Northern Ireland being collected since 1997.
  3. The Inquiry examined longitudinal trends in suicide and homicide over the period 2000 to 2008.
  4. This report was commissioned by the DHSSPS in 2009.
  5. The full report and executive summary can be found at: and 
  6. The NI Suicide Prevention Strategy “Protect Life – A Shared Vision” can be found at:
  7. Other suicide-related research commissioned by the Public Health Agency includes a study that harnessed the learning from the experiences of suicidal men to inform mental health services and ongoing studies analysing: suicidal behaviour; the potential impact of neighbourhood factors; the use of help seeking pathways; GP recognition of suicidal people; and bereavement coping strategies. 
  8. Media queries to for DHSSPS should be directed to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 2841, or out of hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.


Suicide and Homicide in Northern Ireland – Prof L Appleby.pdf893.42 KB
Suicide Strategy Implementation Body – C Donaghy.pdf