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Two People Dying By Suicide In Scotland Every Day Is Two Too Many

10/09/2017 09:15 | Updated 10 September 2017

That's why, on World Suicide Prevention Day, the Mental Health Foundation is calling for a national conversation on suicide prevention and mental wellbeing.

Right across Scottish society, we need greater awareness about suicide, its devastating impact on families, friends and communities and the steps we can take collectively to prevent more deaths. The majority of people who live with mental health problems never seek professional help, which means that there is a role for all of us to identify and support those experiencing distress.

For the first time in six years, suicide has risen in Scotland. Data from the National Records of Scotland show that 728 people died by suicide in 2016 - that's 56 more deaths compared to 2015.

The truth is - the vast majority of suicides are preventable - but we need to create the right environment for people to thrive, talk about how they feel and to receive help when they need it.

While suicides can happen across all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, it's clear that men, as well as people living in poverty are at much greater risk. Those living in the most deprived areas are over three times more likely to die by suicide than people living in the most affluent areas, while men are two and a half times more likely to die by suicide than women.

It's true that suicides in Scotland have been falling over the past decade. We achieved an 18% drop and that is progress to be welcomed. But we need to ensure that the increase witnessed in 2016 doesn't turn into a trend.

For example, we must 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 this smacks of complacency. We can't jeopardise the progress of the past decade by scaling down investment, which should be protected and ring-fenced.

But there is a lot more that must be done. Our research published earlier this year, Surviving or Thriving, shows that only 13% of us enjoy good levels of mental health. We cannot thrive individually or as a nation until we take steps to remedy this. That's why on World Suicide Prevention Day we published a twelve point plan to improve mental wellbeing and reduce the risk of suicide.

For example, giving teachers the training and confidence to explore mental health in our classrooms would help furnish children and young people with the emotional vocabulary to be able to talk about their feelings and seek help.

Nurturing fair and compassionate workplaces, with employers willing to make reasonable adjustments for employees with mental health problems would keep them in a job and avoid unemployment

Rolling out compulsory suicide prevention training for all NHS staff and pharmacists and ensuring professionals monitor patients on mental health prescriptions could save more lives.

Greater co-ordinated action on re-integrating prisoners to their communities would reduce the risk of suicide upon leaving prison.

And providing direct and immediate support for first responders, families and friends in the aftermath of a suicide, such as trauma-based counselling, could help avoid the risk of "suicide contagion".

No single policy in isolation will tackle suicide - we need a "whole-society approach". And we need to build a more resilient Scotland that starts to look after its mental wellbeing. From our classrooms to our boardrooms, now is the time to talk about it. Join our national conversation on www.mentalhealth.org.uk and #WorldSuicidePreventionDay.

Useful websites and helplines:

Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 UK and ROI (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill)

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393

The Mix is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk

HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41

Maytree is a sanctuary for the suicidal in north London in a non-medical setting. For help or to enquire about a stay, call 020 7263 7070

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