Every suicide in Scotland is to be reviewed as part of a new strategy to reduce the number of people taking their own lives by 20 per cent in just four years.
A total of 680 suicides were registered in 2017, the vast majority (77 per cent) men.
As part of an initiative announced yesterday, all deaths by suicide will be reviewed for lessons to be learned, not just those where the person has been in contact with support services.
The National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) – which is being backed with £3 million of funding – will be set up by September.
The delayed blueprint sets out 10 measures aimed at cutting the number of deaths by suicide, including a commitment for the Scottish Government to fund refreshed mental health and suicide prevention training by May 2019.
NHS workers will be required to receive training in mental health issues and suicide prevention as part of the proposals, while ministers are also pledging “timely and effective support” for those affected by suicide.
Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey launched the new plan, and also announced that former Police Scotland deputy chief constable Rose Fitzpatrick will chair the NSPLG.
Ms Fitzpatrick, who retired from Police Scotland earlier this year, was at the centre of controversy in December when it emerged she had received taxpayer-funded relocation expenses worth nearly £70,000 from the Scottish Police Authority – years after moving to take up her £175,000-a-year post in 2012.
The new document replaces Scotland’s previous suicide prevention strategy, which ran from 2013 to 2016.
There were 680 probable suicides registered in Scotland in 2017, down from 728 in the previous year.
The latest figures, however, revealed a slight rise in probable suicides among men, up from 517 in 2016 to 522 last year.
The Scottish Government wants to see a 20 per cent reduction in suicides by 2022.
Ms Haughey, a former mental health nurse, said: “Every life matters and no death by suicide should be regarded as either acceptable or inevitable.
“Over the past decade, Scotland has made real progress in reducing deaths by suicide, but we have far more to do. We want a Scotland where suicide is preventable, and where anyone contemplating suicide or who has lost a loved one gets the support they need.”
Men make up majority of cases in Scotland
While the overall number of deaths fell between 2016 and 2017, the number of men taking their own lives actually rose, from 517 to 522.
Earlier this year, the body of Scott Hutchison, 36, frontman of Scottish indie band Frightened Rabbit, was found at Port Edgar in South Queensferry.
His family said there had been concerns about his mental health before his death, and he had previously spoken about his battle with depression.
After footballer Chris Mitchell, 27, took his own life in May 2016, his family said the stigma around mental health stopped him asking for help.
In an interview his father Philip said: “We didn’t think things had gotten so bad. He hid it very well. He didn’t want to confide in his family about the mental issues that he was suffering.”
Under the strategy outlined yesterday, there will be refreshed mental health and suicide prevention training for all NHS stuff.
Crucially, there will also be a review of all suicides, not just those where the person was known to support services before their death.