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Reducing Suicide and Self Harm

The Scottish Government is committed to reducing suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that has a far reaching impact on family, friends and community long after a person has died.

There has been a strong downward trend in the suicide rate in Scotland over the last 10-12 years. The number of deaths by suicide in Scotland in 2015 was the lowest in a single year since 1974. Our Suicide Prevention Strategy focuses on key areas that we believe will continue the downward trend in suicides:

Areas for action in the Suicide Prevention Strategy

The Strategy to reduce suicide focuses on five key themes of work in communities and in services and we make 11 commitments that will continue the downward trend in suicides and contribute to the delivery of the National Outcome to enable people to live longer, healthier lives. The key themes are:

  • A   Responding to people in distress
  • B   Talking about suicide
  • C   Improving the NHS response to suicide
  • D   Developing the evidence base
  • E   Supporting change and improvement

National leadership by the Scottish Government on reducing suicide - together with the retention of local Choose Life coordinators - will provide support and direction for national and local work.


We know that many people who die by suicide have a history of self-harm, and also that the relationship between suicide and self-harm is complex. For that reason we have limited the scope of the Strategy to suicide and suicidal self-harm. Our first commitment was to undertake separate work, in 2014, on supporting people at risk of non-fatal self-harm, including those in distress.

Several stakeholder events were held in 2014 and 2015 (Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow) to consider how we might reshape and improve how we respond to people in distress. Key issues and themes emerging from discussion at these events have infomed the development of a proposed Distress Brief Intervention, which is to be piloted in 5 areas across Scotland.  Development work for the pilot began in Summer 2016, with plans to go live in Spring 2017.


The Strategy continues the trend in previous strategies to focus on where the evidence leads. It echoes key messages – learned from practice and research – that suicide is preventable, that it is everyone’s business and that collaborative working is key to successful suicide prevention.

We want this Strategy to deliver better outcomes to people who are suicidal and who come to services, to their families and carers, to those not in contact with services, and to continue to improve our knowledge of what works in this complex field.

Next Strategy

In 2017 the Scottish Government will engage with stakeholders to inform the development of a new Suicide Prevention Strategy or Action Plan, for publication in late 2017 or early 2018.