The coroner for Co Westmeath has said the economic crisis is one of the factors that have led to a sharp increase in the incidence of suicide in the county.

Dr Wilfred Hoover said the recession was not the only issue.

He said there had been an increase of over 400% in the number of people who had taken their own lives, as recorded in verdicts at his court, in the first three months of the year.

Dr Hoover said there was a very important need for family members and neighbours to be increasingly vigilant for indications when somebody was unwell.

He urged family members, local groups and organisations to avail of the Health Service Executive's suicide awareness and prevention training and said that it was not just a case of younger men taking their lives.

Dr Hoover was speaking after holding inquests into the deaths of five people at the Westmeath Coroner’s Court today.

Death by suicide was recorded in three out of the five cases.

The three men who died by suicide were aged 22, 23 and 30.

One was a father of one child.

Last year a verdict of death by suicide was recorded in seven cases at the coroner’s court in Mullingar.

Eight have already been recorded in just the first three months of this year.

Dr Hoover said that media coverage of the incidence of suicide and the assistance available was helpful in that the wider public needed to be made aware of the dangers.

He said that while he was also conscious of the issue of copy-cat incidents where others might take their lives, he felt media coverage was important.