Suicides across Hertfordshire are the highest they have ever been in 16 years, figures have revealed.

Data from the Office for National Statistics revealed an increase in the number of suicide cases since 2002, with a total of 103 recorded in the county in 2018, up 27 from the previous year.

Within Watford, the number of suicides in 2018 doubled to 12 – this is one of the highest numbers in Hertfordshire that year.

Lucy Fagioli, from the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide charity in Watford, said it was “sad” that the number of suicides has increased in the area.

She continued: “Each month we feel sad to see new people, I can't remember a month not having new people attend.

“Numbers have definitely gone up since I joined nine years ago from a group of 6/8 people to now 13-16 attendees each month.”

But when asked how the number of suicides can be brought down, Ms Fagioli said: “In my opinion they can't.

“However, there are charities that are promoting awareness and deliver 'spot the signs' training which should help.”

Watford Borough Council mental health champion Cllr Rabi Martins said suicide was an important issue for the council and would continue to expand the number of mental health first aiders.

He continued: “We have also started to engage with wider community including local businesses on this subject.

“Many people struggle to get the right support for them until it’s far too late. The government must do more to address the crisis in our mental health care system.

“Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families and communities across the UK and Watford is no exception.”

Nationally, the data revealed there were 6,507 suicides registered last year, marking an 11.8 per cent rise from 2017.

The figures suggested the rise was largely driven by males, who accounted for 4,903 of the registered deaths in 2018.

Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of the Samaritans, said the figures were “extremely worrying” and called for suicide to be considered as a “serious public health issue”.

She continued: “Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy that devastates families, friends and communities.

“Whilst the overall rise has only been seen this year, and we hope it is not the start of a longer-term trend, it’s crucial to have a better understanding of why there has been such an increase.”

Nick Stripe, head of health analysis and life events at ONS, added: “We saw a significant increase in the rate of deaths registered as suicide last year which has changed a trend of continuous decline since 2013.

“While the exact reasons for this are unknown, the latest data show that this was largely driven by an increase among men who have continued to be most at risk of dying by suicide.”

But Mr Stripe felt that by looking at the overall trend since the early 1980s, there has been a gradual decline in the rate of suicide for the population as a whole.

He added: “We will continue to monitor the recent increase, to help inform decision makers and others that are working to protect vulnerable people at risk.”