PREVENTING suicides remains a significant challenge, despite encouraging progress over the past decade, the public health minister has told MSPs.

A new three-year strategy will build on the Choose Life suicide prevention campaign which has been running in Scotland since 2002, Michael Matheson said.

Speaking in a Holyrood debate, Mr Matheson said the number of deaths from suicide recorded in 2012 was 762 - one of the lowest annual rates since 1991.

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The Scottish Government strategy for 2013-16 will cover areas including responding to people in distress, talking about suicide and improving the NHS response to suicide, Mr Matheson said.

Opposition MSPs said it was important to address trends shown in suicide statistics, including higher rates among men and those from deprived backgrounds.

Labour's Neil Findlay said: "With income levels falling, welfare changes and the general thrust of austerity, desperation can and does creep into people's lives when they're on the breadline."