New figures show that the number of recorded suicides in the Republic increased by 7% last year.

525 suicides, representing 11.4 per 100,000 of the population, were registered in 2011.

The vast majority of those who took their own lives were men.

The figures are contained in the Central Statistics Office Vital Statistics for 2011, which look at the numbers of births, deaths and marriages registered in that year.

The 2011 figures saw a rise in male suicides, which accounted for 84% of all suicide deaths.

Responding to the figures, the Irish Association of Suicidology said international research shows that for every 1% increase in unemployment there is a 0.78% increase in the rate of suicide.

It said that given the impact the economic downturn had had, especially on young males, it was not surprising that men were so at risk to suicide.

However, the association said that there is always help available to anyone suffering emotional distress or feeling suicidal, including through the samaritans or their family GP.

490 suicides were registered in Ireland in 2010.

Extreme concern

Dan Neville TD, President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, said he was "extremely concerned" by the increase in the number of deaths by suicide.

Mr Neville said the figures were not a surprise because there was anecdotal evidence of an increase. He said the true figure was closer to 600 when “undetermined” deaths were taken into account.

He said the figure reflected the neglect of suicide prevention for decades, and the economic recession, which impacts on the levels of depression, anxiety and despair.

Mr Neville said that he has been assured that €35m allocated to the development of mental health services was safe from cutbacks.

He said in the past, the HSE did hive off money allocated to mental health for other services, and there must be vigilance that this doesn't happen again.

He called for the urgent appointments of a Director of Mental Health Services, and a new director of the National Suicide Prevention Office.

"They are key positions that there should be no delay in the appointment of," he said.

"Particularly the Director of Mental Health Services. This is a new position, promised by the government, by Dr Reilly. But it's something we have been looking at for years."

Background factors

Elsewhere, a study of suicide among men in rural Ireland found that mental illness, economic difficulties and marital separation were background factors.

A study carried out by University College Dublin and Teagasc was undertaken to investigate the increased risk of suicide in rural communities.

It determined that men are at least three times more likely to complete suicide than women.

26 men, aged between 19 to 75 years of age, were interviewed following admission to a hospital or psychiatric unit, for the study.

University College Dublin sociologist Dr Anne Cleary said low educational attainment, limited job opportunities, multiple job histories, marginal farming and dependency on social welfare payments characterised the biographies of the men interviewed.

Dr Cleary said that rural factors, such as the stigma attached to mental illness, men's attitudes to health, and a narrow range of treatment options greatly reduced the possibility of solving the mental health problems of this group.

Dr Cleary said prevention could be greatly facilitated by social support provided at local level by existing farming, sporting and voluntary organisations.

Pieta House, the suicide and self-harm crisis centre, said that numbers and statistics are not tangible, and that there is a need to look behind the figures to the thousands of people affected by suicide.

Pieta House can be contacted at 01 601 0000.