Ex-coroner warns that suicide numbers are higher than reported

A former coroner has warned official statistics are underestimating the number of suicides because deaths from suicide are being recorded with open or undetermined verdicts, The Irish Times reports.

Dr Brian Farrell, a trained barrister and pathologist who now works as a consultant coroner, made the remarks at an information session on media reporting of suicide hosted in Dublin by Connecting for Life.

He said that coroners will typically only record a verdict of suicide if it is beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas national suicide statistics would be better to consider a death a suicide on the balance of probabilities.

According to coroners statistics, there were 425 suicides in 2015, the most recent year of data, down from 486 in 2014.

Dr Farrell said it should be possible for researchers to apply the balance of probabilities test instead of using coroner figures to have “for the first time some accurate information in relation to the suicide rate”.

A spokesperson for the National Office for Suicide Prevention agreed that data based on the balance of probabilities would “give us a better understanding about suicide and the reasons behind it”.

  • If you need to talk to someone about suicide, you can contact The Samaritans on 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org.