Samaritans Scotland is calling for sustained action on suicide prevention following data showing deaths by suicide in Scotland decreased by 3% in 2020.
Samaritans Scotland, the leading charity for suicide prevention and crisis support in the country, is calling for sustained action on suicide prevention following data showing deaths by suicide in Scotland decreased by 3% in 2020.
There were 805 deaths by probable suicide registered in 2020, a decrease from 833 in 2019. Of these deaths, 575 were among men, and 230 were among women. Men remain almost 3 times as likely to die by suicide as women, but the suicide rate for women has increased since 2017. Suicide rates continue to peak for both men and women in mid-life however – in 2020 men aged 35-44 and women aged 35-54 have the highest rates.
Data from 2020 shows that people living in Scotland’s most deprived communities remain three times more likely to die by suicide compared to those living in the most affluent communities.
The overall suicide rate across Scotland (deaths per 100,000) in 2020 was 15.0, down slightly from 15.5 in 2019. While any decrease in deaths by suicide is welcomed, the suicide rate remains similar to 2019 and 2018, and significantly higher than the 4 years beforehand (2014-2017).
While 2020 posed unique pressures and challenges for mental health due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to view this data in the context of longer-term patterns. The charity welcomes the decrease in deaths by suicide in Scotland but warned against complacency, calling for suicide prevention to remain an urgent priority across policy and services.
Rachel Cackett, Executive Director of Samaritans Scotland, said: “Every one of these 805 deaths represents a life lost, with devastating consequences for families, friends and communities.
"We know that the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted all our lives, creating new challenges for mental health and exacerbating existing risk factors for suicide. However, it is important to remember that there is no single reason why someone takes their own life and that a range of factors contribute to suicide risk. Deaths by suicide in Scotland had been rising since 2017, and so today’s data is a small but positive step.
"However, one life lost to suicide is one too many, and these figures are a reminder of why suicide prevention must remain a priority as we emerge from the challenges of the pandemic. As a member of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group we have welcomed a renewed focus on suicide prevention at a national and local level. This is leading to real change in how we support people experiencing suicidal crisis and those who have been bereaved by suicide, in tackling stigma and through public awareness, ensuring more people feel able to ask for and access support.
This data is a stark reminder of the impact of inequalities on mental health and suicide. The suicide rate in Scotland’s poorest areas is three times the rate in the least deprived areas. Scotland's next suicide strategy must focus on reducing this gap, particularly as more people may experience economic hardship following the pandemic.
Rachel Cackett, Executive Director
"We know first-hand how urgent Scotland's work on suicide prevention is because we listen to and support people experiencing suicidal crisis, day and night. Calls to our helpline each day remind us why we must continue to work together to achieve our shared vision for a Scotland where fewer lives are lost to, and devastated by the impact of, suicide.”
Samaritans provides free anonymous and confidential emotional support for people experiencing crisis and distress, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can contact Samaritans by phone on 116 123, by email [email protected] or visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch.
Notes to Editors
- Figures from the National Records of Scotland: Probable Suicides 2020 and Scottish Public Health Observatory: Suicide Deaths Registered in Scotland: Scotland overview.
- All rates included in this release are European age-sex-standardised rates.