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Social Inclusion a Key to Rural Suicide Prevention - UCD/Teagasc study

The findings of a major new study of men in rural Ireland was launched today, Wednesday, 11 July at University College Dublin by Ms Kathleen Lynch, T.D. Minister for Mental Health, Disability and Older People. The study was a collaborative project between UCD and Teagasc.

The study was undertaken in response to an increased risk of suicide in rural communities with males being at least three times more likely to complete suicide than women.

Speaking at the launch, UCD Sociologist Dr Anne Cleary stated that the study aimed to identify aspects of rural living and male practices relating to health and wellbeing which could impact on decisions to attempt suicide. Gaining a better understanding of these factors is fundamental to devising preventative strategies, she stated.  This objective also prompted the use of a qualitative methodology, which involved interviewing men who had engaged in suicidal actions about their experiences.    

The study found that background factors to suicidal action included mental illness, economic difficulties and marital separation. Low educational attainment, limited job opportunities, multiple job histories, marginal farming and dependency on social welfare payments characterised the biographies of the men interviewed.

Dr Cleary stated that rural factors, such as lack of employment opportunities, the stigma attached to mental illness, men’s attitudes to health and a narrow range of treatment options greatly reduced the possibility of solving the mental health problems of this group.

Commenting on the international context of the study findings, Dr Anne Cleary stated that the findings broadly concur with findings from similar studies of male suicidal behaviour in rural Australia, Scotland and the US as well as studies of urban Irish men. 

Dr Cleary stated that prevention could be greatly facilitated by social support provided at local level by existing farming, sporting and voluntary organisations. Such support could also help to address the issue of stigma and social exclusion, she stated.   

Teagasc Health and Safety Officer John McNamara stated that Teagasc had supported the study to seek a better understanding of the issues involved in rural suicide with a view improving prevention strategies. The study findings will be made available to all interested parties, he stated. 

The project was a joint UCD/Teagasc project supported by Teagasc’s Walsh Fellowship Scheme. Participants in the study were Dr Anne Cleary (School of Sociology, UCD); Ms Maria Feeney (PhD Student, Walsh Fellow); and Dr Áine Macken-Walsh (Rural Economy and Development Programme, Teagasc).

Please see link to the Pain and Distress in Rural Ireland Report.

Pain and Distress in Rural Ireland Report