Suicide deaths in Northern Ireland highest on record

THREE hundred and eighteen suicides were registered in Northern Ireland during 2015 – the highest annual death toll since records began in 1970.

Despite over £7m being spent annually on suicide prevention, the equivalent of six people each week took their own lives here last year. This was a 19% increase on the suicides recorded in 2014.

Detail Data is reporting on the latest suicide figures almost 10 years after Northern Ireland’s Protect Life suicide prevention strategy and action plan was launched in October 2006 in response to the increasing rate of suicide. Over £50million has been allocated to suicide prevention since the strategy started.

Of the suicide deaths registered in 2015, 77% (245) were male. One hundred and thirty-two were aged between 15 and 34-years-old and five people were 75 or older. Ninety-three people who took their own lives lived in the Belfast Health Trust area - this is 30% of the 2015 total.

Using historic data held by the NISRA we have been able to calculate that a total of 7,697 suicides were registered in Northern Ireland from the beginning of 1970 to the end of 2015. Of these deaths, 5,666 were males. In response to the figures, Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said the suicide rate was “unacceptably high in the north" and that reducing the rate continues to be a priority for her department. “High levels of deprivation, the legacy of conflict and high levels of mental ill-health create a very challenging set of circumstances for many people in the north of Ireland,” she said.


Today’s report is based on the suicide statistics from the Registrar General’s four quarterly reports for 2015. Suicide deaths can take time to be fully investigated and there is often a period of time between when the suicide occurs and when it is registered. For example, of the 268 suicides registered in 2014, 133 actually occurred in 2014, 123 took place in 2013 and 12 in 2012 or earlier.

The 2008/11 Programme for Government (PfG) set the target of an average annual suicide death rate of 10.7 per 100,000 of population over the three year period 2010 to 2012. This target was not achieved.

The word ‘suicide’ does not appear in either the 2011/15 PfG or the draft 2016/21 PfG. The Health Minister said it is expected that the suicide rate will be one of the indicators used to monitor the implementation of the PfG.  Click here to read the Minister's full response to our questions.


High numbers of suicide deaths have devastated families across Belfast, particularly in the north of the city.

The Belfast Forum for Suicide Prevention is made up of more than 30  voluntary and community groups who are working together to combine their expertise, experience and resources to reduce suicides. Forum members Irene Sherry, Stephen Barr, Caroline King, Clare Flynn and Jo Murphy spoke to Detail Data. 

To access the full story and the contributions made by the voluntary and community organisations involved in the story click here.

• To access the suicide data in full, click here.


- Lifeline is the Northern Ireland crisis response helpline service for people who are experiencing distress or despair. It can be contacted confidentially on 0808 808 8000.

- The Samaritans can be contacted by telephone on 116 123 or [email protected] 

- Suicide Down to Zero can be contacted on [email protected] 

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