Ireland has seen a rise in suicide among older teenagers, according to a new study.
The research, published in the Irish Medical Journal, looked at the number of suicides carried out by those under 18 in the years between 1993 and 1998, and the years between 2003 and 2008.
The figures showed a small reduction in the number of suicides among those aged between 5 and 14. They show that between 1993-1998 28 children in that age group had committed suicide, while the comparable figure for 2003-2008 was 25.
However, among those aged between 15-17, there was a rise in the number of those committing suicide, with figures showing 77 suicides in that age group in the years 1993-1998, but rising to 97 between 2003 and 2008.
Overall, the researchers said that suicide in children under 15 was extremely rare in both decades, with average overall rates of 1.6/100,000.
In both age groups, males were significantly more likely to commit suicide. In the 5-14 age group between 1993 and 1998, males accounted for 25 of the 28 suicides in that age group, while in the 15-17 age group, 61 out the 77 suicides were male.
Between 2003-2008, male suicide accounted for 18 out of the 25 suicides in the 5-14 age group, and 71 out of the 97 suicides in the 15-17 age group.
According to the figures, Ireland has the fourth highest rate of youth suicide in the expanded EU, with an average of 14.4 people under 25 committing suicide per year. Suicide is the leading cause of death on young males aged 15-24.
The researchers said that, while the observed number and rate of suicide deaths in childhood has increased across the decades, this trend was not statistically significant, noting that a similar increase has also been reported in other countries.
According to international figures, the US saw an increase in the rate of completed suicide among children aged 10-14 of 109pc between 1980 and 1997.
The rate of completed childhood suicides (under 14) in the 1990’s for the UK, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the USA was estimated as being under 2 per 100,000. In fact, suicide was the third leading cause of death, after accidents and homicides, among 10- to 19-year-olds in the United States in 2000.
However, it said that, while completed suicide in children under 14 in Ireland was rare, “many more young people present with deliberate self harm (DSH)”.
The report said that DSH was recognised “as the single most potent risk factor for subsequent suicide”.
It said that recent data from the Irish National Registry had shown a 12pc increase in rates of DSH in boys aged 15-19, and 21pc in 19-24 year old males between 2008 and 2009.
Children who had self-harmed were at increased risk of subsequent attempts, the study noted.
It is estimated that 10pc repeat within a year, and 20pc within 7-17 years. One Irish study which followed up children with DSH over a 1-5 year period, found that 20pc had made a repeat attempt, with 10pc repeating more than once.