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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Gibson MSP

Scotland’s New Suicide Prevention Action Plan

Scotland will reduce its suicide rate by 20% by 2022, Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey has said as she announced the country’s new prevention plan.

The Action Plan sets out ten measures to continue the steady decline in the country’s rate of deaths by suicide and was developed following extensive engagement with mental health and suicide prevention organisations, people affected by suicide and academics.

To implement the plan, the SNP Government will set up a National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) by next month and support it with a new £3 million innovation fund. Former Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick will chair the group.

Actions will include:

  • creating and implementing refreshed mental health and suicide prevention training by May 2019 for Scotland’s public and private sectors. The plan requires all NHS staff to receive training

  • developing reviews of all deaths by suicide and ensuring lessons are shared with partners and acted on

  • developing innovative ways to use digital technology to prevent suicide

  • The government, NSPLG and partners co-ordinating public awareness campaigns

Ms Haughey launched the plan during a visit to the Men’s SHARE suicide prevention project in Midlothian and said:

“Every life matters and no death by suicide should be regarded as either acceptable or inevitable. Over the past decade, Scotland has made real progress in reducing deaths by suicide but we have far more to do. We want a Scotland where suicide is preventable, and where anyone contemplating suicide or who has lost a loved one gets the support they need.

“This plan sets out how the SNP Government and our partners will achieve this and it makes clear that suicide prevention is everyone’s business. Our approach recognises the need to work together across sectors and organisations to identify and support people in distress, strengthen communities, and save lives.”

Ms Fitzpatrick added:

“It is an honour to be asked to chair the new National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group.

“I am deeply aware of the significance and importance of the group’s work, and confident that by working closely with a range of partners to take on the range of important actions in this national plan, we can all make a real difference. The plan has been developed with partners, stakeholders and people who have been directly affected by suicide. Together with all members of the leadership group, I am very grateful to those who took the time to contribute.”

Scottish Association for Mental Health chief executive Billy Watson commented:

“We welcome Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Action, which shows ambition and commitment to making suicide prevention a national priority. We have been encouraged by the decrease in the number of deaths by suicide in recent years, however we cannot become complacent. When someone dies by suicide, it has an impact like no other.

“We are pleased to see a number of SAMH calls have been agreed and included in the action plan, particularly a national target of 20% reduction of suicides by 2022. We look forward to playing a leading role in implementing this new action plan.”

Lee Knifton, head of Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said:

“We have campaigned vigorously for the creation of a new national body to drive forward suicide prevention work. We are pleased to see it at the heart of the new action plan. The new leadership group can help instill new drive and ambition in tackling suicide in Scotland. We’re equally pleased our calls for mandatory training for NHS and social security staff, and trauma-informed support for bereaved families are in the plan.

“These commitments must now be turned into action. 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.”

Kenneth Gibson MSP said:

“As the first MSP to have raised the issue of suicide in the Scottish Parliament back in the summer of 1999, I have always taken a keen interest in how we cut the number of suicides in Scotland. I pleased that the understanding of, and commitment to, tackling the issue of suicide is now so much greater than it was all those years ago.

“Ultimately, the proof of how successful measures are in reducing the number of people who take their own life. I am confident that the Action Plan and all those working hard to deliver it will achieve that success.”

Between 2002-2006 and 2013-2017, the death by suicide rate in Scotland fell by 20%.

Rose Fitzpatrick was appointed Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland in 2012 and until her retirement from policing in 2018, she had overall responsibility for local policing across Scotland. She is also a former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police Service. Ms Fitzpatrick was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in 2007 for distinguished police service, and a CEB in 2017 for services to law and order. She is also a founder member of the Scottish Women in Public Sector Leadership network, and has been an active charitable sector trustee for many years.



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