Success as Scottish Government establishes new body to tackle suicide

  • Our campaign is a success as Scottish Government establishes new body to tackle suicide.
  • Suicide prevention training will be mandatory for NHS and social security staff.
  • Families bereaved by suicide to be offered support.

The Mental Health Foundation's campaign for a new national body to help tackle suicide in Scotland has received the backing of the Scottish Government. The new Suicide Prevention Action Plan published today, (Thursday) establishes a new "Leadership Group" backed by £3 million and will report to Scottish ministers.

Our campaign, which called for timely support for bereaved families and mandatory training for NHS and social security staff was backed by over 1,000 petitioners and bereaved families and friends. Both recommendations have been endorsed in the Scottish Government's action plan.

The new body will be responsible for co-ordinating national campaigns, reviewing data and guidance on suicide and making recommendations on supporting the development and delivery of local prevention action plans.

The charity argued that a new body was necessary as suicide prevention had fallen off the political agenda with budget cuts at local level and lack of national leadership.

However, in order to tackle the root causes of distress among young people it is necessary to create a "whole-school approach" whereby all teachers are trained to explore mental health in classrooms, and this is missing from the plan.

Lee Knifton, Head of Mental Health Foundation Scotland said:

"We campaigned vigorously for the creation of a new national body to drive forward suicide prevention work and we're pleased to see it at the heart of the new action plan. While mental health has taken a more prominent place on the political agenda over the past decade, disappointingly suicide prevention lost impetus. We believe that the new leadership group can help instil new drive and ambition in tackling suicide in Scotland. 

"We're equally pleased that our calls for mandatory training for NHS and social security staff and trauma-informed support for bereaved families have been backed by the government and are included in the plan. 

"Around 70% of people who die by suicide are known to health services in the year prior to death – this shows we often know who is at risk – but could be doing more to prevent suicide. 

"Families bereaved by suicide are currently left to cope on their own with little or no proactive support offered from services. But the evidence shows that those bereaved are at greater risk of taking their own lives as a result of trauma. It's unacceptable that they should be put on a 12-week waiting list when they need immediate trauma-informed support.

"We're delighted that our campaign and petition, backed by over a thousand people including bereaved families, has led to a commitment for better support – this is first and foremost a success for families who have lost a love one.   

"However, the Scottish Government still has more work to do to safeguard the health and wellbeing of children and young people. 

"Teachers have told us that they desperately need training to explore mental health and address the issues causing young people distress, such as body image, pressures to succeed, exam stress and relationships. Our education system is still too focused on academic performance with little regard for health and wellbeing and that needs to change. 

"No society should tolerate the suffering and despair that leads a person to take their own life. Now is the time to make Scotland a world-leader in suicide prevention and we look forward to playing our full part in the new Suicide Prevention Leadership Group."