September 05 saw the start of this year’s Suicide Prevention Week, with World Suicide Prevention Day this coming Saturday, September 10. The initiative began in 2003 to raise awareness of an issue that deeply affects so many people.
As people, we may have endured periods in our lives when we were unsure if we could ever be happy. Fortunately, for the vast majority, negative thoughts do not spiral into depression and eventual contemplation of suicide. Nevertheless, there are still too many of us who make the attempt. My great-grandmother committed suicide and an uncle and aunt also took their own lives. I had actually completely forgotten all about that, when I was the first MSP to raise the issue of suicide in the Scottish Parliament, back in the summer of 1999 and remembered it only when directly asked by the Herald if anyone family members or friends had killed themselves. Painful memories can often be repressed and our family never discussed such matters.
I never feel comfortable speaking about human lives in terms of statistics; nevertheless they help demonstrate the size of the problem and identify groups or individuals at higher risk than others.
Suicides in Scotland fell from 799 in 2013 to 672 last year, a still unacceptably high number. Tragically, 17 were in North Ayrshire and each would have had a devastating impact on family and friends. In every year since 1986, three quarters or more of people who killed themselves were male. Although money doesn’t buy happiness, poverty causes tremendous stress. It is therefore unsurprising that suicides are almost three times more likely amongst people from the most deprived areas than in the least deprived.
Every suicide is one too many and we must strive to prevent them. The SNP Government has had a Suicide Prevention Strategy for several years now which will be renewed in 2017. Its priority of reducing death by suicide will be reflected in the new Mental Health Strategy too. North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership through Choose Life works closely with NHS Ayrshire and Arran, Police Scotland and the the Penumbra Self-Harm Service help schools, parents and young people prevent suicide.
Nobody wakes up deciding to commit suicide out of the blue. The road is often long and painful. If you have considered taking your own life or wondered what the world would be like without you, please don’t allow such thoughts to fester. Take action now, by speaking to a friend or family member, or contact Choose Life at www.chooselife.net Samaritans or Breathing Space. Breathing Space is a free, confidential, phone service for anyone in Scotland experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety. The service is funded by the SNP Government's Mental Health Unit and operationally managed by NHS 24. Call 0800 83 85 87 or contact breathingspace.scot between 6pm and 2am Monday to Thursday or between 6pm on a Friday and 6am on a Monday. BSL interpretation services are available. Ayrshire Samaritans can be contacted at: http://www.samaritans.org/branches/ayrshire-samaritans or on 01563 531313.
If bereaved through suicide, the booklet After a Suicide by the Scottish Association for Mental Health, at: http://www.samh.org.uk/media/125564/after_a_suicide.pdf may be useful.
Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland supports people experiencing difficulties coping with the death of a family member or friend, including where a person has died by suicide. They help people through one-to-one counselling sessions, enabling people to work through grief. Cruse can be contacted on 0845 600 2227 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. See also www.crusescotland.org.uk .
If we only listen closely to each other and take action at an early stage, there may be a chance to save a life.