A 15 per cent increase in the number of people who took their own lives in Scotland last year has been described as "devastating news".

There were 784 recorded suicides in 2018, a rise of 104 over the 2017 figure, according to official NHS statistics.

Figures from the NHS NHS Information Services Division (ISD) showed the rate of suicide is three times higher in the most deprived areas of Scotland, and men remain markedly more likely to take their own lives than women

Billy Watson, Chief Executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health, said: “After a number of years in which we saw an overall downward trend, it is devastating news that significantly more people died by suicide in Scotland last year than in the year before.

"Today’s figures show we must redouble our efforts as a nation to deepen our understanding of the causes of suicide, so we can help everyone who needs it. At SAMH we are committed to playing our part in this”.

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said the increase was "concerning" - but she said rates had been falling over the previous decade. "Any suicide is a tragedy and my heartfelt condolences go out to the friends and families of those who have been affected by the loss of a loved one," she said.

"We remain committed to building on the overall 19 per cent decrease in suicide rates in Scotland between 2004-2008 and 2014-2018. We are working to raise public awareness and improve crisis support services for at risk groups. To take this important work forward we have established a National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group.

"We have also asked all NHS boards to include mental health and suicide prevention training within their workforce plans."

Professor Steve Turner, Officer for Scotland for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) welcomed a focus on the circumstances behind suicides among young people but said it did not go far enough.

“The ISD statistics published today show that 96 young people died as a result of suicide in 2018, a preventable cause of death in the 18-24 age group," he said. "Earlier this year the Scottish Government revealed proposals for a new child death review process for Scotland due to launch in April 2020."

However it will only cover people up to the age of 18. " The RCPCH considers this age remit to be too narrow and calls on Scottish Government to extend it to include this 18-25 age group," Prof Turner said. " As a priority we need a system which will identify why all these tragedies have occurred and to take appropriate action to prevent them in future.”

Monica Lennon MSP, Scottish Labour's health spokewoman, said: "Around 100 young people under the age of 25 died by suicide last year, with the total number of young men ending their lives through these circumstances rising for the fourth consecutive year.

“In August, the SNP government promised to reduce the suicide rate by 20 per cent by 2020. But these figures show things are getting worse, not better.

“Suicide is preventable and we need action from Jeane Freeman to give our mental health services the resources they need to stop this tragic loss of life.”