Suicide rates hit an all-time high as 554 take own lives
SUICIDE rates are feared to be at an all-time high with more than 500 people taking their own lives each year.
The vast majority were men.
There were 554 deaths by suicide in Ireland in 2011, the highest since records began, but researchers believe that the true figure is closer to 600.
This is the highest number of suicides since records began in 2000, according to the Central Statistics Office.
Its figures show that 83pc of these deaths were males.
Ireland was just below the European average, but still had the fourth highest rate for suicides in young men aged 15 to 24.
The CSO figures showed men were five times more likely to take their own lives, something that the charity Samaritans have expressed concern about.
"Male suicide rates were highest in the 45-64 age-group and therefore it is clear that we must focus our efforts on addressing suicide among this group," said its executive director Catherine Brogan.
"Samaritans research shows that disadvantaged men in mid-life today are facing a perfect storm of challenges."
She cited unemployment, social isolation, alcohol misuse, labour market and demographic changes as having "a dramatic effect on their work, relationships and very identity".
The highest number of deaths by suicide in women was among those aged between 24 and 44.
But experts are concerned that the official figures underestimate the scale of the problem.
Provisional data for 2012 has been compiled by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) and shows that there may be as many as 507 deaths that year - 413 men and 94 women.
And early statistics for last year indicate that there may have been 475 suicides - 396 men and 79 women.
Dr Eve Griffin, a post-doctoral research psychologist at the foundation, said: "We would think that the statistics would be somewhat of an under- estimation of the actual suicide rates.
"There might be some ambiguity around the coroner's inquest, and that a suicide might be classified as an accident or undetermined."
She added that their research suggests that there may be as many as 40 additional suicides per year, and that there is international evidence to suggest that the majority of undetermined deaths are suicides.
The NSRF report examined data from Cork county and city coroners where 275 suicides and 32 open verdicts were recorded from September 2008 to June 2012.
The research shows that the 32 deaths were officially classed as undetermined, but met their criteria of suicide.
A death is recorded as a suicide based on information from a coroner's certificate - if that detail is inconclusive, the gardai can officially state a death was a result of intentional self-harm.