We need better support for people struggling to cope, says Samaritans Scotland
Samaritans Scotland is calling for better care for people in crisis and those at risk of suicide after an NHS Health Scotland report published today showed that over two thirds of people who die by suicide in Scotland have some contact with health services in the year prior to their death.*
The report highlights that over a quarter of those who went on to take their own life attended A&E within just three months of death. Around 60% had at least one mental health drug prescription dispensed within 12 months of death.
The report, the Scottish Suicide Information Database (ScotSID), also gives detailed insight into the age, gender, marital status, employment status, occupations, levels of deprivation and other circumstances of the 5,119 deaths by suicide from 2009-2015.
James Jopling, Executive Director for Scotland at Samaritans said, ‘Whilst a sizeable minority of those who take their own lives in Scotland are not in contact with healthcare services prior to death, this important report highlights that a large proportion have been. We fully support all efforts to make us all more aware of suicide risks amongst friends and family, but we must also ensure that those professionals that come into contact with people at risk of suicide have the right training and resources to identify, engage and effectively support them. We don’t want to miss any chance to change someone’s life.’
He added, ‘The report also tells us that of those who do attend A&E in the three months before they take their own life, nearly 40% die within just a week of their last visit. We welcome recent Scottish Government initiatives such as the Distress Brief Intervention programme designed to better meet the needs of people who are struggling, but this report suggests there is clearly much more we can do.’
Recently released statistics from National Records of Scotland also show that suicides in Scotland have risen for the first time in six years. ** The suicide prevention charity says resourcing and equipping more professionals with suicide awareness and prevention skills needs to be addressed as part of the Scottish Government’s new suicide prevention action plan, due to be published early next year.
Steven Fegan, from Kilmarnock, reached out to Samaritans when he was crisis: 'I had been feeling hopeless for a while, so I began to self-harm. Guilt sat in my mind. Every day I woke I felt weak and being a ‘man’ you're supposed to be strong, because you’re meant to protect your loved ones. I didn't feel like a ‘man’ because all I was doing was putting the people I loved through misery and stress. I just wanted the world to stop and I knew that since that wasn't going to happen the only way out was to end my life. This was the only option I could see.'
'I decided to call Samaritans as I knew that they offered help to people like me, who were looking for a reason to stay alive. The first call was hard, even just beginning to find the words to describe how you're feeling is almost impossible, let alone actually saying them out loud. The volunteer at the end of the phone was brilliant, they knew the right questions to ask, were very patient and non-judgmental. Thanks to them I'm here today.'
'I know first-hand that having a compassionate response when you’re struggling is so important. If we could ensure that more of the professionals you come into contact with know how to respond well, it really could save lives.'
Samaritans Scotland is asking the Scottish Government to:
- Ensure more frontline health staff, including pharmacists, are trained to recognise and respond to those at risk.
- Introduce a national agreement between services involved in the care and support of people in mental health crisis which sets out how they will work together to ensure people get the help they need when they need it.
- Increase support for local suicide prevention work, which will ensure services effectively respond to local needs.
ScotSID is one of the most extensive linked datasets relating to suicide in the world. Findings have been extensively used to inform the development of strategy and implementation of effective action to prevent suicide, contributing to the downward trend in suicide in Scotland over the past 15 years.
The Distress Brief Intervention project is a Scottish Government funded project which aims to improve the response to those in distress.
*The majority (70%) of the 5119 deaths by suicide covered by this report had contact with at least one of six healthcare services within 12 months of death. https://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Public-Health/Publications/201...