The National Office for Suicide Prevention has said the economic downturn has led to a big increase in demand for services offered by voluntary counselling groups.

The Office says although it will be sometime before the impact of the recession on suicide figures is known, there is already evidence that services have experienced a peak in demand in particular during 2009.

The NOSP says as a result of concerns expressed by agencies working in the area of mental health and suicide prevention it has put in place a number of initiatives to offer advice, assistance and support to people affected by the downturn.

Meanwhile, the STOP group in North Leitrim, which has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, has said it feels abandoned and neglected by the State.

Spokesperson Mary McTiernan says the Government needs to put in place a funding mechanism for groups providing support to communities on a voluntary basis.

Mary McTiernan says the severity and crisis situation with suicide is not being dealt with as it should be by State agencies.

She said the ‘catastrophe’ that is suicide needs to be recognised by the Government as a problem claiming more lives than road traffic collisions.

This afternoon the Department of Health said it would 'shortly' decide what groups are to be granted funds from a €1m scheme to support suicide prevention efforts.

Voluntary groups, such as the Lions Club, had been told for the past two years that the Dormant Accounts fund had been postponed.

But the Department of Health has said that 111 applicants were currently being assessed and allocations would be made soon.