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Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. According to the World Health Organisation, it’s responsible for more than 700,000 deaths annually, equating to one suicide every 45 seconds.

There was a welcome decrease in the number of suicides in Scotland last year, with 805 probable suicides - down from 833 in 2019, a 3% fall.

Nevertheless, the figure is still shockingly high. Each death represents a life lost, with devastating consequences for families, friends and communities.

The pandemic disrupted all our lives, creating new mental health challenges for many. However, there is no single reason why someone takes their own life. A range of factors will contribute.

World Suicide Prevention Day is about promoting hope through action to reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts. It aims to highlight that everybody can play a part.

Whether as a parent, friend, colleague or neighbour, we can all support someone experiencing a suicidal crisis or bereaved by suicide, by simply making the time and space to listen. Small talk can save lives and create a sense of connection and hope.

People are often reluctant to intervene for many reasons, including not knowing what to say. Empathy, compassion, genuine concern and a desire to help can be key to preventing a tragedy. There is no doubt that a listening ear is more likely to reduce distress rather than exacerbate it.

In recent years Scotland has made real progress in tackling suicide, with numbers steadily falling. The SNP Government’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan sets out a vision of a Scotland where suicide is preventable, with help and support available to anyone contemplating ending their life, as well as for those who have lost a loved one.

However, there is global concern that the pandemic may increase suicide rates. Studies of past epidemics were associated with public health emergencies and increased risk of suicide, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

As Scotland faces the extraordinary challenges arising from the pandemic it’s clear that these are difficult and uncertain times for many people and it is highly likely the impacts on individual mental health and wellbeing will be felt for some time.

I’m pleased that Ayrshire and Arran has been chosen as one of two health board areas to benefit from a new pilot scheme which will see specialist staff support families who have suffered the pain and trauma of bereavement by suicide.

The SNP Government has provided £510,000 for the pilot, which involves the charities Penumbra and Support in Mind Scotland and offers a vital lifeline for families who have lost a loved one.

Every life matters and no death by suicide should be regarded as either acceptable or inevitable. If you or someone you know is struggling,

Breathing Space can help. The call is free, in confidence, at any time from any phone on 0800 83 85 87. The number won’t show up on your phone bill.



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