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Young Irish Male Perspectives on Depression & Peer Suicide

Qualitative research funded by 3TS, found that young men in Ireland may reveal emotional or self-destructive behaviour, or indicate their concerns and thoughts of suicide to a friend or peer whilst under the influence of alcohol.

Similarly, the research also indicated that they are likely to brush such disclosures aside when sober, and that friends and peers may also view what they heard to be “drunk talk”

Suicide is currently the leading cause of mortality in young men in Ireland and these findings were just one element of a study called “Young Irish Male Perspectives on Depression & Peer Suicide”, carried out between 2007 and 2010, by Dr Lorna Sweeney. As part of the research, interviews were conducted with a sample of young Irish men who had lost a friend to suicide in recent years. Sweeney’s research was undertaken through a unique 3ts funded Ad Astra Scholarship in Suicide Studies as part of the Suicide Research Programme at UCD St Vincent’s University Hospital, led by Professor Kevin Malone and supported by 3TS.

The research findings indicated that the friendship networks of young Irish males frequently involve all-male interactions, where emotional and personal issues may not be identified and are rarely raised or discussed.  According to Dr Sweeney “The alcohol context was identified as an important avenue for disclosure of concerns, emotions and suicidal thinking in the friendships of young Irish males; but disclosure within this context was also found to reduce perception of risk in the individual.”

Previous suicide research has found that a high proportion of those who have died by suicide, have indicated to someone their intentions to do so in advance of the fact.  Indeed, established suicide prevention programmes such as ASIST and SafeTalk are based on this principle.  The finding that young Irish men may disclose suicidal thinking under the influence of alcohol is, therefore, highly relevant for gender and youth-specific suicide prevention policies.

Commenting on the research, Noel Smyth, Chairman of 3TS said “In light of these findings, we would ask people to be more aware of disclosures or problems shared by friends when drinking together.  In particular, we would urge that any disclosures involving suicidal thoughts are followed up the next day and considered in a context more seriously than just ‘drunk talk’”.

“Many people may find themselves in heightened emotional turmoil as a result of economic pressures.  Often fears and worries are repressed, with many men in particular finding it difficult to open up and talk about their fears and concerns” he continued.

The research also revealed the current lack of specific policy documents relating to how young male suicide is to be tackled in Ireland, and also the lack of any Irish policy concerning the challenge of peer suicide bereavement for young Irish males.

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