Austerity cuts blamed for rise in suicides among poorer Scots

Mental health minister Maureen Watt says prevention of suicide continues to be a priority area for the Scottish Government. Picture: SNS/Craig Foy
Mental health minister Maureen Watt says prevention of suicide continues to be a priority area for the Scottish Government. Picture: SNS/Craig Foy
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Austerity cuts have been blamed for higher suicide rates among Scots from poorer areas.

People in these areas are three times more likely to take their own lives, a new report has found. With Scotland’s suicide rate rising after years of decline, the report looked at the 5,110 Scots who killed themselves between 2009 and 2015.

Three quarters were men and almost half were aged between 35 and 54, the NHS Health Scotland report found. more than two thirds contacted health services in the year before their death.

But the link with deprivation has been branded a “wake up call”.

“The link between suicide and deprivation is undeniable and underlines the human cost of austerity,” said Labour’s Monica Lennon. “The Tory government in Westminster and the SNP government in Holyrood must change course, end austerity and invest in anti-poverty measures, rather than running down local councils and support services.”

Recent figures showed that there were 728 suicides in Scotland in 2016 – an increase of 8 per cent compared to 2015.

The Scottish Government has also come under fire over a lack of urgency in suicide prevention.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Suicide is an absolute tragedy and one that has had a profound impact on the families and local communities left behind.

“Recent figures show that, across the country, suicide is on the rise, yet almost a year after the previous suicide prevention strategy expired, the SNP have still not replaced it. We all knew that these strategies were set to expire so why did the Scottish Government allowed such a gap to appear? This is a devastating dereliction of duty.

Mental health minister Maureen Watt said the Scottish Government is planning to publish a draft suicide prevention strategy next year.

She said: “Every suicide is a tragedy with a far reaching impact on family, friends and the community long after a person has died. Although the Scottish suicide rate fell by 17 per cent between the period 2002-6 and 2012-16, prevention of suicide continues to be a priority area for the Scottish Government.

“We therefore, welcome the latest ScotSID report as a significant contribution to the growing evidence base on probable suicides in Scotland. It will inform policy and activity that aims to continue the downward trend in the suicide rate which we have seen in recent years.”