Scotland Trustee Amanda Millar writes as we launch our new strategic development plan.
The calls keep coming. Every ten seconds on average. A worry here, a crisis there. People struggling with problems big and small in a world where, for the past two years, the sole certainty has been change so rapid that it is impossible to be confident of what tomorrow might bring.
That weighs on minds and spirits. We hear that when phones ring at Samaritans. When our 1000 incredible volunteers in Scotland answer the call, day and night, they provide a safe space to listen to those concerns. Thankfully, the hope we offer through that human connection saves lives.
It has been a vital service for nearly 70 years as the front line in preventing episodes of suicide and self-harm. However we need to do more. All of us. To reduce the levels of distress, of isolation, of hopelessness that leads someone to reach out and speak up when they are already feeling weighed down.
It is why Samaritans is launching its new strategy, ‘Tackling Suicide Together’. Even during the pandemic, the reasons why people take their own lives have remained numerous and complex. Yet Scotland has an opportunity as life returns to what each of us determines to be normal to make a positive change. One that is real and lasting, and which not only addresses the symptoms but the root causes too.
We all feel the tensions arising from economic uncertainty and current global events. More worries and some increased. Structural inequities in our society are clearly evident. Child and adult poverty, addiction, poor physical health, the human costs can be felt from our largest cities to our smallest villages.
Our own research tells us that feelings of isolation are on the rise. Barriers to accessing support are just one ingredient feeding poor mental wellbeing. The impact is not being felt equally within our communities. This is far from fresh news. In some areas, there is so little data that the true picture remains clouded. That must not be an excuse to hold back. Our most marginalised communities have lacked care and attention. We are there for everyone but the signposts to help must be understood and resonate universally if we are to reduce instances of suicide.
That structural shift begins at home. Mine, yours, our neighbours. We will actively collaborate with anyone at local or national level who can help us build a collective voice for change.
I was the first open member of the LGBTQ+ community to serve as President of the Law Society of Scotland. I know the power of seating those with differing lived experiences around the same table. Samaritans’ work in Scotland will be shaped by insights gained from diverse perspectives.
We are filled with optimism at how civil society has shown a heartening commitment to improving wellbeing and support. Finding the right solutions will require many voices to be heard. We will add ours and as ever, be ready to listen.
Amanda Millar is a specialist in Mental Health Law and Chair of Samaritans Scotland. This article originally appeared in The Herald.