The coroner for west Limerick has said he believes verdicts of suicide should be officially recorded at inquests to allow for real statistics on the tragedy of suicide.

Mr Brendan Nix, who is also a Senior Counsel, said the hands of coroners are currently tied because they can only recommend a verdict of death in accordance with the medical evidence as given by a pathologist.

Mr Nix presides at inquests in west Limerick, covering Newcastlewest, Abbeyfeale, Kilmallock and Croom.

He said he is shocked by the number of suicides he has encountered in rural areas across Limerick, which are higher, sometimes double what they are in Limerick city.

CSO figures show that 507 people died by suicide last year, 15 of those in Limerick city and 16 in Co Limerick.

In 2011, the number of people who took their own lives in Limerick city was 11, while it was 22 in Limerick county.

Limerick has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country - 26.6 per 100,000, compared to 11 per 100,000 nationally.

Mr Nix was making his comments in advance of a symposium on suicide that he is organising for next Saturday.

It will be attended by the emergency services, those working in the area of suicide prevention and counselling.

He said he believes that many people take their own lives because of an absence of hope.

Mr Nix said he wanted to reach out to people who are troubled and tell them that there are people to help them at difficult times.

He said while suicide was once a felony, it has now been decriminalised, but that in his 11 years as coroner he has never seen a medical report presented to an inquest in which suicide was given as the cause of death.

Suicide statistics are gathered by the CSO following an analysis of information from the General Registries office, which records births and deaths, and information from the gardaí.