Figures released by the ONS have shown that the suicide rate in Wales has risen 30% in two years, the highest level since 2004.
The rates are now higher than in England. The rate in Wales is up from 10.7 per 100,000 people in 2009 to 13.9 in 2011. The England rate is 10.4 per 100,000.
The Chair of the Assembly’s All Party Group on Mental Health said the new figures had to be treated with caution as the factors that lead to suicide were complex and multi-layered.
However he called on the Welsh Government to examine the new figures closely and commission specialist research to shape policies that could help excluded and marginalised groups at particular risk of suicide.
Mr Skates said: “We do have to treat statistics relating to suicide very carefully indeed. The factors that cause someone to take their own life are complex and reading any concrete patterns into the figures is very difficult.
“However, it is concerning that the suicide rate in Wales has risen 30% in two years and is now higher than the rate we are seeing in England. It had been feared that the economic downturn would have a big impact on mental well-being in Wales and we need more research to examine this further.
“That is why I believe the Welsh Government and the NHS should take a leading role in helping to commission specialist research into the suicide rate in Wales. We need to look at the factors that are underpinning this increase and how policy in mental health can be shaped to help and support groups that are most likely to take their own life.
“One of the at risk groups appears to be middle aged men. A report released last year by the Samaritans - ‘Men and Suicide: Why it’s a social issue’ highlighted that males from disadvantaged backgrounds in their 30s, 40s and 50s are at higher risk of suicide than other groups.
“It said that on average, men from low socio-economic backgrounds living in deprived areas are ten times more likely to die by suicide than men from high socio-economic backgrounds living in the most affluent areas.
“These are the sorts of issues that need now to be researched further. With a legacy of heavy industrial manufacturing that has gone into sharp decline over the last thirty years, maybe there are longer term factors, particular to Wales, that need to be explored.”
Some of the increase may be down to a change in the way deaths were recorded by coroners following new guidance.
Wales had a greater number of deaths than any E nglish region. North-east England is the next highest at 12.9 per 100,000.
* The Freephone Community Advice and Listening Line (CALL) numbers are 0800 132737 or 81066.
T* The Samaritans on available on 08457 90 90 90.