Seven out of ten suicide deaths have health care contact

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In the past four years 3,013 Scottish residents have died of suicide, 70 per cent of them had had previous contact with health care services, indicating prior mental health or psychiatric problems.

According to figures released by ISD Scotland, the most common form of contact was through a mental health drug prescription with 59 per cent having been prescribed medication in the year prior to suicide. 26 per cent had A&E attendance within the three months prior to suicide.

The Scottish Government is investing an additional £100 million in mental health services over the next five years

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health

One in four people who had committed suicide had a least one psychiatric inpatient stay or psychiatric outpatient appointment in the 12 months prior to death.

This could be highlighting a lack of after care available in the NHS, as over 2,000 of the people known to have prior problems committed suicide.

There was a gender divide as well with 87 per cent of female suicides having contacted health care versus 64 per cent of males, although this statistic may reflect the wider population trend for a higher contact rate among women.

While the overall trend is that suicides are going down, 696 suicides in 2014 compared to 795 in 2013, the number of women committing suicide had actually increased - although men are still two and a half times more likely to commit suicide than females.

People aged five to 24 were 14 per cent less likely to have had contact with health care services prior to suicide. There were two deaths under five who were not included in the survey. Although the nature of the death was akin to suicide, it is thought children this young would not understand the concept.

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, said: “Every single death by suicide is a tragedy. We welcome this report, which we commissioned to help us improve services and prevent suicide. The Scottish suicide rate fell by 17.8 per cent between the periods 2000-2004 and 2010-2014, and the number of deaths in 2014 was the lowest in a single year since 1977. We are determined to continue reducing the rate.

“The Scottish Government is investing an additional £100 million in mental health services over the next five years. We fund specific services for people in distress, such as the Breathing Space helpline. We also fund improvements for NHS Boards to make mental health services safer for people at risk of suicide, for example: risk management, better observation and improved management of medicines.”

The suicide rate varies between different areas within Scotland.

The rates in Ayrshire and Arran NHS Board and the local authority areas of Aberdeenshire, East Renfrewshire, Perth and Kinross and South Ayrshire were all significantly low compared to Scotland overall. Highland and Inverclyde local authorities were significantly higher than Scotland overall.

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