Foundation publishes action plan to tackle Scotland's suicide rate

7 September 2017

Unnacceptable reduction in funding for suicide prevention. 'It's time to talk about it' is a national conversation needed on the devastating impact of suicide

The Mental Health Foundation Scotland is today, ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday 10 September, calling for a national conversation on suicide prevention, in response to the rise in suicides in Scotland for the first time in six years.

Statistics from the National Records of Scotland show that 728 people died by suicide in 2016 – that’s 56 more deaths compared to 2015. 

In response, we are today launching It’s time to talk about it, a public campaign which includes a 12-point action plan on fostering good mental health with a view to tackling Scotland's rising suicide rate.

New Freedom of Information data we have obtained reveals, in some cases, a significant reduction in suicide prevention investment in some of Scotland's local authorities. We are warning against complacency, given that the overall fall in suicides over the past decade has resulted in several local authorities scaling down investment on suicide prevention.

Our recommendations include:

  • giving teachers the right training to talk about mental health in classrooms
  • embedding compulsory suicide prevention training for all clinical health workers, allied health professionals and pharmacists
  • encouraging compassionate workplaces that foster good mental health and support people to stay in employment during periods of ill health
  • implementing a national roll-out of Community Triage for people in crisis
  • support for individuals directly impacted by suicide, particularly family and first responders to avoid 'copycat suicide'
  • greater mental health support for victims of crime and those in the justice system
  • the ring-fencing of suicide prevention funding by local authorities

What do the figures tell us?

  • In 2016, the suicide rate for males was more than two and half times that for females.
  • People living in the most deprived areas are over three times more likely to die by suicide than people living in the least deprived areas.
  • Research shows that the vast majority (70%) of those who died by suicide had some type of contact with healthcare services in the year prior to death. 

Toni Giugliano, Public Affairs Manager, Mental Health Foundation Scotland said:

"It's time for a national conversation about the devastating impact of suicide and what more can be done to prevent it. Whether it's giving teachers the training to explore mental health in schools, creating compassionate workplaces or investing in crisis services, it's clear that action is needed.

"We hope that the increase in suicides in 2016 is a one-off, but we can't be complacent. That's why today we are launching "It's time to talk about it" – a 12-point action plan that looks at our schools, workplaces, health service, prisons and beyond.

"It's clear that men, as well as people living in poverty, are at much greater risk of suicide. That's why we are calling on the Scottish government, ahead of its new suicide prevention strategy, to commit to tackling the inequalities that too often are the root causes of suicide.

"We must also continue to invest in suicide prevention. Our Freedom of Information data reveals that several local authorities have significantly reduced suicide prevention funding in recent years and that is utterly unacceptable. We can't jeopardise the excellent work of the past decade by scaling down investment. We're calling on policy makers to avoid complacency and ring-fence funding for suicide prevention.

"A majority of people who live with mental health problems never seek professional help. This means that there is a role for all of us to identify and support people experiencing distress. For anyone worried about a friend or a loved one we would strongly advise that they visit NHS Scotland's Choose Life website, which provides information on talking to someone. Samaritans Scotland are also available to talk 24 hours a day all year round on 116 123."

Seonaid Stallan's 18-year-old son Dylan died by suicide. Dylan was living with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, social anxiety and depression. Seonaid said:

"There are simply no words to describe the shock of being told your son has taken his own life. Our world had just collapsed but there is no manual to tell you what to do next. If mental health was part of the curriculum in schools and conversations around mental health more open, then perhaps Dylan would have been able to speak openly about his health with his friends. 

"I am certain that this would have helped him feel less alone. Pretending to be fine every day becomes utterly exhausting."

Seonaid also flagged the need for more direct support for young people living with mental health problems:

"As Dylan's struggle with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and depression worsened by the day, I felt helpless. I called CAHMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) to express my concern and was asked if he was self-harming or suicidal. 'Not yet' I replied. There was no one available to see him.

"Imagine telling your doctor 'I think my child has appendicitis' and being told you will have to wait until the appendix has ruptured before we can treat him."

Notes

  1. Our 12-point plan and campaign infographic are included in this press release. 
  2. FOI stats from individual local authorities can be obtained by contacting Toni Giugliano.
  3. The Mental Health Foundation is Scotland's charity for everyone's mental health. With prevention at the heart of what we do, we aim to find and address the sources of mental health problems. 

To arrange an interview please contact Toni Giugliano at the Mental Health Foundation on 07756663312.

Read our new policy briefing

If you are in distress or despair, or you are having suicidal thoughts, phone Samaritans on 116 123 (UK); 116 123 (ROI); text 07725 90 90 90 or email jo@samaritans.org.