Suicide rates in older men in Northern Ireland have jumped significantly over the past decade, campaigners have claimed.
Austerity measures, job losses and mortgage payment difficulties have been blamed for a rise in the number of men aged in their 30s, 40s and 50s taking their own lives, the suicide prevention charity Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-harm (Pips) said.
"Ten years ago we had a high number of young people aged between 16 and 24 taking their own lives. Between April and December 2003 a total of 14 young people took their own lives," Pips founder Philip McTaggart said.
"Today it is older men who are attempting to take their own lives. I have no doubt the recession has a major part to play. If the Government has to introduce austerity measures they should also introduce mechanisms to support the people through the difficult times."
The highest number of recorded suicides in Northern Ireland was in 2010 when 313 people took their own lives. In 2011 it dropped to 289 and fell again in 2012 when 278 deaths were recorded as suicide.
Pips, which is marks its 10-year anniversary this weekend, said it had helped thousands of people in emotional crisis. At its recently-opened new headquarters in north Belfast, more than 150 people sought help during March and April.
Mr McTaggart added: "We know that for every male that takes their own life there are three or four females who attempt to take their own lives. The fact is they need someone to talk to and we offer that service. Many lives have been saved.
"When someone does die the World Health Organisation has said that their family is at high risk of suicide, so we are straight in there trying to help and trying to get them to move on with their lives."
Among the highlights for the charity over the past 10 years was the introduction of the Protect Life Strategy by former Stormont health minister Michael McGimpsey in 2006. The Department of Health now contributes £7 million each year to support the implementation of Protect Life.
Pips patron Rosemary Craig said: "The fact that three people a day take their own lives in Northern Ireland is very worrying. Even if we can save one person then it is worthwhile. This event will be a celebration of life and the work that Pips has done."