Context of Suicide Statistics
The statistics are widely used to inform policy, planning and research in both the public and private sector and they enable policy makers and support services to target their resources most effectively. Key users include the Department of Health, the Public Health Agency, academics, and charity organisations. There is a period of time between when a suicide occurs and when the death is registered.
Definition of Suicide
Suicide deaths in Northern Ireland are defined using the UK National Statistics definition which includes deaths from Self-inflicted Injury for persons aged 10 and over as well as Events of Undetermined Intent for those aged 15 and over. The codes used to define the suicide figures are shown below:
|X60-X84, Y87.0||Self-inflicted Injury||Persons 10 years+|
|Y10-Y34, Y87.2||Events of Undetermined Intent||Persons 15 years+|
Information for the media
There is strong evidence that sensationalist media reports about suicide can lead to subsequent additional suicidal behaviours (suicides and suicide attempts). Media professionals should exercise caution in reporting on suicide, balancing the public’s “right to know” against the risk of causing harm. It is therefore important that those reporting on suicide statistics adhere to the guidelines of safe reporting from WHO/ IASP and Samaritans.
Lifeline - Phone 0808 808 8000
Samaritans - Freephone 116 123
Things you need to know about this series
The 2019 suicide total (provisional figure of 209 and later finalised at 197) showed a significant fall on the 2018 total of 307. The decrease was primarily driven by improvements in the statistical collection and collation process, and in particular the re-classification of ‘drug related’ deaths from being undetermined (and within the suicide definition) to accidental (and outside of the suicide definition). In light of this, NISRA, working with the Coroners Service, began to review and revise individual undetermined drug related deaths from 2015 to 2018. This review was later extended to include 2020 data as well as some non-drug related cases from 2015-2019. This review is now complete and finalised figures for years 2015 – 2020 have been published. Full details of the issues prompting the review and the impact of the revisions on the previously published time series are available in the May 2022 review report. This review marks a major revision to this important statistical series and has had a significant impact on the existing NI narrative in relation to suicide rates compared with other nations.
Change in Burden of Proof
On 26 July 2018, as a result of an English case in the High Court, the standard of proof – the evidence threshold – used by coroners to determine whether a death was caused by suicide was changed from the criminal standard of “beyond all reasonable doubt” to the civil standard of “on the balance of probabilities”. For all deaths given a conclusion of suicide, a coroner makes this decision having ruled out all other possible explanations. NISRA will monitor and report the impact of this change on our data; given the registration delays described above and the additional impact of the Review of Suicide Statistics, it will take time to gather enough data to assess the impact of the change.
Quality and methodology
The User Guide to Suicide Statistics in Northern Ireland contains important information' on: quality characteristics, strengths and limitations of the data, methods used to provide suicide series and changes to suicide series.
The Quality Assurance of Administrative Data (QAAD) for Deaths Data in Northern Ireland provides further information on the collection, production and quality of the underlying mortality data on which suicide death statistics are based.
The Samaritans also produce a useful explanation of Understanding Suicide Statistics across the UK and in Ireland.