Investigation of suicidal behaviours in adults with ADHD in Ireland

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A study of 136 adults with ADHD in Ireland showed that 20 per cent had attempted suicide, while a further 61 per cent had experienced suicidal ideation, writes Maureen Browne. 

The investigation of suicidal behaviours and self-harm in adults with ADHD in Ireland, showed that only 19 per cent had not previously attempted suicide or experienced suicidal ideation, while 50 per cent had self harmed.

Suicidality was associated with more severe ADHD symptoms, anxiety and use of cocaine, amphetamines and sedatives, but suicidality was not associated with depression, alcohol or cannabis use.

Self-harm was associated with more severe ADHD symptoms, emotional dysregulation, cannabis use.

The study was funded by HSE Connecting for Life National Office of Suicide Prevention (NOSP).

The main aim of the study was to investigate suicidal behaviours and self-harm in the adult ADHD population in Ireland with a view to raising awareness of the risk for adults with ADHD, as well as recognise potential predictors to inform future prevention strategies.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common neuro developmental condition in childhood (5-7%) and continues into adulthood for up to 80% of children.

The prevalence rate of ADHD is estimated to be approximately 3.4% of the adult population.

The Irish study looked at 136 participants with ADHD, 90% of whom had been diagnosed in adulthood. The mean age was 39 years (range 18-71 years), 78% had third level education, 70% were employed13% were students and 17% were unemployed.

The authors said the implications of the study were:

  • Increased capacity was needed in Adult ADHD Specialist Services as part of the National Clinical Programme Model of Care.
  • Training was needed for primary care, secondary care and tertiary level staff, including in Emergency Departments
  • Voluntary sector (ADHD-Ireland) interventions were required for those who were not receiving formal services – Understanding and Managing Adult ADHD Programme (UMAAP). 

The ADHD in Adults National Clinical Programme Model of Care was launched in Ireland in January 2021. All Clinical Programmes are dependent on new additional funding to be implemented fully and Programmes can take several years to be fully implemented. When fully implemented, 12 Adult ADHD Clinics will be established to provide assessment and multi-modal treatment in Community Healthcare Organisations in line with the national Model of Care. Each clinic consists of a Consultant Psychiatrist, Senior Psychologist, Senior Occupational Therapist, Clinical Nurse Specialist Mental Health and an Administrator.

Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler has announced three additional teams will be developed in 2022 for the National Clinical Programme for ADHD in adults, helping to ensure adults with ADHD receive holistic, integrated and person-centred care.

Members of the Project Team which carried out the investigation were, Prof. Jessica Bramham, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology UCD School of Psychology, Dr Margo Wrigley, National Clinical Programme for ADHD in Adults, Christina Seery, PhD Student, Research Assistant, Fiona O’Riordan, Programme Manager for the National Clinical Programme for ADHD in Adults, Rachel Murphy PhD Student, Research Assistant and Ken Kilbride, CEO of ADHD-Ireland.