Leader comment: Learning the lessons of Scottish suicides

Singer-songwriter Scott Hutchison, of the band Frightened Rabbit, killed himself in May this year (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
Singer-songwriter Scott Hutchison, of the band Frightened Rabbit, killed himself in May this year (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
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Every suicide in Scotland will be examined as part of a drive to cut the number by 20 per cent in four years.

Last year in Scotland, 680 people killed themselves.

According to the Samaritans, one of the myths about suicide is that discussing it is a bad idea because it might encourage someone to try it.

What the charity has learned over more than 60 years of helping those in emotional distress is that making suicide a taboo subject only discourages those considering taking their own life from talking about it and getting potentially life-saving help.

“By asking directly about suicide you give them permission to tell you how they feel. People who have felt suicidal will often say what a huge relief it is to be able to talk about what their experiencing. Once someone starts talking they’ve got a better chance of discovering other options to suicide,” it says.

READ MORE: Every suicide to be reviewed in bid to reduce the number of deaths in Scoltand

Until now in Scotland, cases of suicide were only formally examined if the person involved had been in contact with health or social services to see if there had been any mistakes made. We didn’t really talk about cases where it appeared there was no one to blame.

But, under a new policy announced by the Scottish Government yesterday, every such death will be reviewed in an attempt to learn lessons that might save other lives. An ambitious target has been set to reduce the number of suicides by 20 per cent in just four years.

The new initiative itself was welcomed by opposition politicians whose main complaint was that it had been delayed, so that Scotland has been without a suicide prevention strategy for more than 18 months.

The Conservatives described this as “unacceptable”, while the Liberal Democrats said the Scottish Government “can’t be forgiven”. If the new target is met and so many lives are saved, it will show the seriousness of that delay.

However, thankfully, there appears to be cross-party consensus about the need to do more to help those who find themselves in the depths of utter despair and can see no way out by themselves.

But anyone in this situation should realise that help is at hand, be it from friends, family or, indeed, the Samaritans, which provides a 24-hour, confidential helpline.

“The majority of people who feel suicidal do not actually want to die; they do not want to live the life they have,” the charity says.

“The distinction may seem small but is in fact very important and is why talking through other options at the right time is so vital.”

READ MORE: Suicide rates in Scotland are falling, latest stats show