Suicide rates in Scotland are falling, latest stats show

Official statistics show that there were fewer suicides in Scotland last year than in 2016. Picture: John DevlinOfficial statistics show that there were fewer suicides in Scotland last year than in 2016. Picture: John Devlin
Official statistics show that there were fewer suicides in Scotland last year than in 2016. Picture: John Devlin
Suicide rates in Scotland have fallen, new figures show.

There were 680 deaths recorded as probable suicides in 2017, down 7% from 728 in 2016, according to official statistics.

Men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women, with male suicides up slightly from 517 in 2016 to 522 in 2017.

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The deaths of 158 women in Scotland were recorded as probable suicides in 2017, down from 211 the previous year and at the lowest level since 1982.

Scotland’s most deprived areas had a probable suicide rate more than two and half times higher than the least deprived areas between 2013 and 2017 but this has fallen from the previous four years.

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Charity the Mental Health Foundation welcomed the fall in suicide deaths but said a radical new government prevention plan is needed, claiming existing structures are “not fit for purpose”.

No new plan has been in place since the previous strategy came to an end in 2016.

The foundation’s policy manager Toni Giugliano said: “Fewer people died by suicide in 2017 than the previous year and that’s to be welcomed.

“However, suicide statistics should be analysed over a longer period of time due to yearly fluctuations.

“Over the past four years the numbers have not shifted substantially and around 700 people have taken their own lives every year - that’s on average two people every day.”

“Over the past year the Mental Health Foundation has engaged closely with the Scottish Government on how Scotland can be at the forefront of suicide prevention work again, and how we can deliver a radical new suicide prevention action plan.

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“These statistics show how important it is that we get it right.”

He said a new national body for suicide prevention is needed, along with a dedicated support service for those bereaved by suicide and mental health and suicide prevention training for workers such GPs, hospital staff and social security staff.

Opposition politicians also urged publication of the new strategy.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “A decline in suicides is of course welcome as each death represents distress and trauma for everyone involved.

“It’s a concern that the suicide rate for men remains so much higher and that there remains a strong connection with areas experiencing poverty.

“The government’s new prevention plan can’t come soon enough, and I hope the new minister, Clare Haughey, helps get mental health higher up the government’s agenda.

“There’s a real need for a joined up approach, such as supporting GPs in areas of deprivation and putting the promised 800 additional mental health workers in place as quickly as possible.”

Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton said the new mental health minister must prioritise the prevention plan.

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He said: “These statistics show that hundreds of families have been let down.

“It is now 18 months since SNP ministers allowed the last suicide prevention strategy to expire and it still hasn’t been replaced.

“That is negligent and has held services back.”