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Scottish suicide rates are falling, but more is still needed on prevention

Campaigners are calling for a stronger prevention action plan, with men still three times more likely to take their own lives than women

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The number of deaths from suicide fell by seven per cent in Scotland last year, according to new official statistics.

The report from National Records of Scotland found deaths ruled as probable suicide fell from from 728 in 2016 to 680 in 2017, but men and poorer areas were more likely to have higher rates.

Despite the fall, men are still three times more likely to take their own lives than women. And Scotland’s most deprived areas had a probable suicide rate more than two and a half times higher than the least deprived areas between 2013 and 2017.

While the drop in deaths was welcomed, charity Mental Health Foundation said that existing prevention plans were “not fit for purpose.”

The foundation’s policy manager Toni Giugliano said: “Fewer people died by suicide in 2017 than the previous year and that’s to be welcomed. However, suicide statistics should be analysed over a longer period of time due to yearly fluctuations.”

Giugliano noted that figures have not shifted substantially since 2014 – with an average 2 people per day taking their own lives. “Over the past year the Mental Health Foundation has engaged closely with the Scottish Government on how Scotland can be at the forefront of suicide prevention work again, and how we can deliver a radical new suicide prevention action plan,” he said.

He also called for a new national body “with teeth and resource” for suicide prevention, alongside a dedicated support service for bereaved families and friends and an increase in mental health and suicide training across the healthcare sector.

James Jopling, Samaritans’ executive director for Scotland, said the male suicide figures highlighted “the challenge of addressing the connection between men and suicide”.

Meanwhile, opposition politicians also called for publication of a tighter strategy with Green MSP Alison Johnstone raising concerns about the link between impoverished areas and suicide and said the “new prevention plan can’t come soon enough.”

Image: iStock

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