Scottish suicide survey reveals level of contact with care services in year before deaths
Almost 6,000 Scots took their own lives between 2011 and 2018, according to newly released statistics.
ISD Scotland said 44% contacted paramedics, NHS 24 or out-of-hours GP services in the year before their death.
Its new report looking into Scotland’s suicide figures reveals almost a third (33%) of those who killed themselves had called the Scottish Ambulance Service on at least one occasion before their suicide.
The study is the first of its kind to look at people’s contact with one of the care services in the 12 months before they took their own lives.
It found the 5,982 people living in Scotland who died by suicide in the eight-year-period “were significantly more likely to have had contact with an unscheduled care service in the 12 months before death than members of the general population”.
The report notes the highest levels of contact with unscheduled care services were associated with women over 75 who are living in the most economically-deprived areas.
Boys and men between the ages of five and 24 were linked to lower levels of contact with these services, as well as those living in more affluent or remote areas.
The report expresses concern people whose deaths are found to be “definite suicides” rather than “probably suicides” are also less likely to have been in contact with the ambulance service, NHS 24 or out-of-hours GP services.
It adds: “Health service planners will want to consider possible improvements to the organisation, reach and delivery of services targeted at groups at high risk of suicide, while healthcare providers will want to consider improvements to the identification, engagement and effective treatment of individuals in these groups.”
The findings led to a call from Scottish Labour for more “joined-up working” between health and social care services, as well as more investment for mental health services.
Mental health minister Clare Haughey (pictured) cited the suicide prevention action plan, which is receiving £3 million funding over five years and is chaired by former deputy chief constable Rose Fitzpatrick.
“Every suicide is a tragedy with a far-reaching impact on family, friends and communities,” she said.
“Suicide prevention is a key priority for the Scottish Government and requires ongoing analysis and research.
“Through our Suicide Prevention Action Plan – supported by £3 million funding over the course of the current Parliament – we are working to reduce the rate of suicide in Scotland and are ensuring that those affected by suicide have access to the right support.
“This report represents a significant contribution to the growing evidence base around suicide in Scotland which will inform current and future policy and activity.”
Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “Every death by suicide is a tragedy.
“All of us must get better at listening and talking so that none of us feel alone.
“Reducing mental health stigma needs our collective efforts, proper funding for health and social services, and joined up working so that there is no wrong door.”
She added: “Contacts with health and care services can provide opportunities to support people at risk of suicide when they are most vulnerable.
“We cannot allow these opportunities to be missed.
“Across Scotland, mental health and substance use teams need to work more closely, and lengthy waiting times for CAMHS and specialist mental health care must be reduced.
“Investment in suicide prevention should be a public health priority.”
Dr David Hall, the suicide prevention lead for the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said: “The fact that people very often tell others of their intention to harm themselves before they do take their own lives only reinforces the need to take them seriously.
“Our front-line services are not always equipped to deal with demand.
“We need them to be set up in a way in which vulnerable people get the appropriate help and support they need, quickly.”
The Samaritans can be contacted for free at any time of the day on 116 123.
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