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choose life : A National Strategy and Action Plan to Prevent Suicide in Scotland


choose life: A National Strategy and Action Plan to Prevent Suicide in Scotland


Malcolm Chisholm photoSuicide touches the lives of many people and is a devastating event. Many of us will know of someone who has attempted or completed suicide. Preventing suicide and reducing the rate of suicide in Scotland is therefore an urgent public health issue, one that goes right to the heart of our efforts and policies to create a healthy, prosperous and socially inclusive Scotland.

We recognise the many challenges that lie ahead and are aware that there are no easy or single interventions that will bring a guarantee of success. We also know that evidence internationally shows that reducing the suicide rate and preventing suicides requires a combined effort, across all Government Agencies and Departments, a range of local agencies, organisations, professionals and other workers, local groups, families and individuals. That is why this National Strategy and Action Plan is interlinked with many Scottish Executive policies and initiatives already underway, and is one key part of the work of the National Programme to Improve Mental Health and Well-Being.

In addressing the rate of suicide we must continue our efforts to eliminate poverty; achieve greater social justice and inclusion for those who are vulnerable in our society; address inequalities where these exist; improve and expand educational opportunities; improve self- esteem and confidence, especially among our young people; improve health (both our physical and mental health and well-being); and address the needs of our children and young people, who are our vital and precious resource for the future.

If we tackle suicide as a 'one issue' policy we will fail. Our collective attempts to prevent suicide and reduce the suicide rate are directed at the heart of our Scottish Executive policies - be they economic regeneration, social justice, inequality, education, health, local government, communities, policies for children, for better public services, or for improved mental health care.

The product of two years' work, this National Strategy and Action Plan draws on a wide range of ideas, experiences and perspectives from people right across Scotland, including family members of people who have attempted or completed suicide, health and social care workers, teachers, young people, public health specialists, volunteers, community workers, people with mental health problems, their carers and many others. It sets out the direction and actions we now wish to take both nationally and locally, with an emphasis on raising awareness; taking action to prevent problems arising in the first place; providing early support and intervention where problems do occur; developing a wider range of supports and services; improving training for front-line workers; undertaking more research and continually monitoring our efforts to ensure that we are making a positive impact.

This is a long-term strategy. It requires collective responsibility and action, the people of Scotland acting and learning together. As this strategy indicates, there has already been considerable public sector investment in initiatives which impact on preventing suicide and responding to suicidal behaviour within a range of agencies and organisations across Scotland, providing a huge amount of experience, expertise and ideas to draw on. These efforts need to continue and we applaud all that has been achieved to date.

But we need to achieve more. A further investment of 12 million is therefore being allocated over the next three years to directly support and complement national and local efforts to deliver and implement the first phase of this National Strategy and Action Plan. We are confident that this additional investment - coupled with a public sector budget which is set to rise by a further 4 billion by 2006 - will provide the scope, the catalyst and the commitment to achieve tangible, long-lasting results.

I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the development of this work to date and shared their experience and views with us. I know that my colleagues in the Scottish Cabinet and their staff in the departments of the Scottish Executive look forward to continuing working with them and many others in taking this work forward nationally and to supporting work locally.

We all have our part to play in helping those who may experience and face adverse events in life, and emotions and feelings so strong that they consider taking their own lives. By putting in place these measures over the coming years, by taking a shared and collective approach and providing support and understanding towards those people who are at risk, we believe we can encourage them to make the right choice: to choose life.

Malcolm Chisholm signature

Malcolm Chisholm, MSP
Minister for Health and Community Care
On behalf of the Scottish Cabinet
December 2002