Rural isolation and suicide pose major concern - Tánaiste
Suicides across rural Ireland now pose one of the greatest challenges to society, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has acknowledged.
Farming ranks as one of the professions most tragically affected by suicide and self-harm.
Rural counties such as Roscommon, Clare, Wexford, Waterford, Kerry, Cavan and Monaghan per capita suffer the highest rates of suicide and self-harm.
Experts said this is linked to isolation and loneliness, financial pressures, lack of sufficient out-reach supports and, in cases, a reluctance particularly among men about reaching out for help.
The Tánaiste said the reality of rural isolation is stark.
"Mental health and isolation in rural Ireland is and has been for many, many years a challenge," he said.
"We need to constantly look at the supports and the infrastructure - particularly the community infrastructure - that are there to make sure people don't feel isolated and on their own.
"I remember when I was agriculture minister for five years we spent a lot of time around farm safety and raising not only the dangers physically of working on a farm, such as from machinery and livestock, but also quite a lot of work to do with rural isolation. We are trying to respond to that."
Figures compiled by the CSO, and analysed by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF), found that between 2014 and 2016 the urban area of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown had the lowest rate of suicide.
In contrast, Roscommon had the highest. However, the number of suicides has fallen from a high of 554 in 2011 to 399 in 2016.
- If you are affected by any of the issues raised, please call the Samaritans helpline 116 123; Aware helpline 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House 1800 247 247.