AN action plan is being introduced to reduce the number of suicides in St Helens after statistics showed the town has the third highest figure in the region.

Between 2010 and 2012 only Wigan and Knowsley had more people who took their own lives. Liverpool was fifth out of nine neighbouring authorities.

The St Helens Suicide Prevention Action Plan has been drawn up by St Helens Council.

While the overall number of deaths from suicide is regarded as low, with 19 in 2013 compared to 23 the year before, it is among the 30 to 49 year olds where the issue is the most worrying.

Last year 11 people in this age bracket died compared to eight aged between 50 to 69.

Out of 40 deaths examined in the report between 2010 and 2012, 38 were men and two women.

The youngest was 18 and the oldest 73.

The majority, 75 per cent, were widowed, divorced, separated or single with the rest either married or living with a partner.

Out of the 40, less than half were in work, 35 per cent were unemployed, 20 per cent retired and one was a student.

The report also analysed the possible causes. It found that 72 per cent had mental health issues, ranging from mild depression to schizophrenia. Relationship problems accounted for 40 per cent and more than half were not known to mental health services.

Among the strategy's priorities are raising awareness in family and friends of people at risk of suicide and ensuring front-line professionals have the appropriate level of training.

Also that services designed to help people deemed at increased risk have strategies in place to reduce suicides and to raise general awareness of self harm.

These include reducing the risk of suicide in high risk groups, improving mental health and providing better information and support to those who have lost loved ones.