INCREASING isolation and the closure of traditional meeting places has been blamed for the rising number of suicides among elderly people.
Pointing to newly released suicide figures from south Kerry, the coroner, solicitor Terence Casey, said the worrying trend had been particularly noticeable since 2005.
The warning comes after the Offaly County Coroner warned earlier this week that suicide is now “rampant” in rural society.
Figures from the Offaly office and provisional figures from the coroner in Clare highlighted a growth in the number of suicides in both counties.
Mr Casey said the common perception that suicide was something that occurred mainly among the young had been turned on its head in recent years.
In the past five years, he said, older age groups made up the highest numbers of suicides in the south Kerry region, which includes the wider Killarney, Caherciveen, Kenmare and Killorglin areas.
Mr Casey said it was important society asked why the trend was changing.
Separately, suicide awareness campaigner Shane Maher said the issue of post-retirement suicide needed to be addressed across the country.
The head of the Campaign Against Suicide, Mr Maher has been lobbying for a drop-in centre to be opened in Limerick city for people who are suicidal.
“People lose their sense of purpose; their routine changes and they can become isolated. It is a sudden jolt,” Mr Maher said.
“Sudden withdrawal from occupation, routine and work colleagues, which can sometimes be accompanied by the death of a spouse, can be devastating. We propose the introduction of retirement clubs and job sharing post-60 to address suicide post-retirement.”
According to figures released by the south Kerry coroner, four of the 12 people who took their own lives in 2005 were over the age of 60; four were between the ages of 30-50; three in the 20-30 age group and one under 20.
Similarly, in the years since, seven of the nine suicides in 2006 were over the age of 40.
Four of the seven suicides in south Kerry in 2008 were over 50 and two of these were aged over 60. In 2009, four of the 13 suicides were aged 60 and over; three in the 40-50 age group and two aged over 30.
Provisional figures for 2010 showed eight verdicts of suicide were returned. Three of the dead were people aged 50 to 60.
The overall figure is likely to increase as all of the 2010 inquests have yet to be held, Mr Casey said.
“The age profile is changing to older people,” the south Kerry coroner said, describing the suicide issue in the county and elsewhere as “extremely complex”.
Mr Casey also urged people to talk about their problems and suggested most of the suicides were in rural parts of the county where meeting places like the local pub and the creamery no longer existed and the mail was left at collection points rather than the post office.
“There is a gap in social life in rural Ireland. We have to question the suicide trend in the older age groups,” Mr Casey said.
Earlier this week, figures from the Offaly County Coroner’s office and provisional figures from the coroner in Clare highlighted a growth in the number of suicides in both counties.
The latest published figures for suicide in this country produced by the Central Statistics Office show that there were 527 cases, up from 424 the previous year.
An additional 195 “deaths by undetermined intent” were recorded.
This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, January 28, 2011