THE suicide rate in Gloucestershire is almost 50 per cent higher than the national average.
New figures show the county has suffered a dramatic spike in the number of people taking their own life since the recession hit.
The number of suicides per 100,000 people in the county stood at less than 10 between 2006 and 2008 – below the national average.
But since that point the rate has risen to more than 14 people per 100,000, above the national average of 10.19. Figures are for those aged 15 and over.
While the county's overall situation is a sad one, with an estimated 60 people taking their life every year, things are worse in Gloucestershire's three major urban areas.
The latest figures, taking into account deaths between 2010 and 2012, estimate Cheltenham's suicide rate at 14.92, while Gloucester's is more than 50 per cent higher than the national average of 10.19 at 16.43, while Tewkesbury's is 15.43.
All of the statistics have been compiled in a Gloucestershire County Council report which also reveals the overwhelming majority of suicide victims in the county, 80 per cent, are men.
Between 2009 and 2012 there were 241 suicides in the county, with people between the age of 40 and 44 the most likely to take their life.
Only one third of those people who died had contacted mental health services before their death.
Suicide prevention has been designated as a local health priority with councils, police and health organisations working together to try and help people as much as they can.
Councillor Dorcas Binns, cabinet member for public health and communities, said: "Every suicide case is a tragedy for everyone involved and prevention remains a top priority for the county.
"The reason why someone might choose to take their life is varied and complex and no one single factor can prevent suicide from occurring.
"Gloucestershire County Council works with partners including schools, district councils, the health sector, the police and several voluntary sector organisations, to support a number of programmes focussed on building resilience and awareness, particularly in young people."
There is ongoing work to make sure colleges and schools in Gloucestershire distribute information to young people to make sure they know where they can go for support. Teachers are also being given new resources to help them address the issue of suicide with pupils aged 14 to 16.
A 'volunteer buddying' system is also being commissioned to help young people who have been diagnosed with a psychotic illness.
A new campaign, also aimed at young people, to promote emotional resilience and support is set to start in May.
Gloucestershire-based psychotherapist Jan Slater said more needs to be done to remove the stigma around mental health so that people with depression feel comfortable talking to others and asking for help.
"I hear from my clients how difficult they find it to admit to how they feel, often putting on a brave face for others," she said. "It therefore has always seemed essential to me that we work hard as a nation to remove the stigma of mental health issues.
"We would benefit from educating our children from 13 upwards that struggling with difficult, dark or disabling feelings is something that humans may sometimes suffer from. and just like if we are physically unwell, we should get help if we feel unwell emotionally."