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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

2. Strategy


There are five principles which guide the implementation of this National Strategy and Action Plan:

Shared responsibility

The responsibility for tackling suicidal behaviour cuts across Scottish Executive departments, sectors, agencies (public, private and voluntary) and organisational boundaries. We need to share a sense of collective responsibility and ensure that our actions work in partnership. This will require harnessing the energy of the voluntary and community sectors and utilising their experience of working with local community interests and networks, alongside those of statutory agencies. This partnership working and shared responsibility also applies to sharing decisions about the investment and targeting of resources to achieve national and local objectives.

Effective Leadership

Both locally and nationally, we need to ensure effective and sustained leadership and achieve a balance between 'bottom up' and 'top down' initiatives and actions which maximise ownership and commitment by all parties.

Taking a Person-Centred Approach

In addressing complex issues, we must recognise the range of influences, events and experiences that shape a person's life at different stages, especially at critical points of their lives, for example, leaving school, becoming a parent, starting a job, losing a job, losing a loved one or colleague. All of these experiences shape a person's outlook and experience. This requires a people-centred approach - seeing people as individuals, with their own strengths, abilities, desires and wishes. It will be important in helping, supporting and responding to people that we offer hope, understanding and compassion to support the process of recovery which will be different for each individual person.

Focus on Priority Groups

Suicide affects all parts of our society. However, to ensure we bring about change in both the short and longer term we must focus on priority risk groups without losing sight of the broader needs of society as a whole.

Continuous Quality Improvement

A strategic approach to suicide prevention has to be informed by drawing on, and developing, better information and evidence of what works. We need to identify outcomes that we can measure and monitor, constantly evaluate progress and make necessary adjustments to confirm that our actions are being effective and take the necessary actions to improve future work.

This strategy and action plan to prevent suicide is a key part of the work of the National Programme to Improve Mental Health and Well-Being.

The actions taken to prevent suicide will have both a direct and indirect effect on improving mental health and well-being in line with the aims, objectives, priorities and values of the National Programme.

For more information on the National Programme, see Appendix 5.


The overall aim of this National Strategy and Action Plan is to reduce the rate of suicide in Scotland.

Our target is to reduce the rate of people committing suicide in Scotland by 20% by 2013.

This will require immediate and longer-term action and investment by a variety of agencies nationally and locally. Effective working relationships between local agencies, and between agencies working at national level and local level, will be essential.

These objectives require both local and national action.

Nationally, a National Action Plan Implementation Steering Group will be established by April 2003 comprised of representatives of all Scottish Executive departments and other national bodies and agencies. This Group will be supported by a new National Implementation Support Team which will take forward and oversee nationally the implementation of the objectives in this strategy and action plan and support local action.

Locally, these objectives will be planned and implemented through locally agreed suicide- prevention action plans. These plans will be agreed, and invested in, by all local Community Planning partner agencies, as part of the local joint health improvement action plans. Additional resources are being allocated to each Community Planning Partnership to help support this process and provide additional impetus to supporting innovative local voluntary and community-based initiatives, and help in the development and implementation of training. Local action plans should be completed by no later than December 2003.

The seven main objectives of this strategy and action plan are:

Objective 1:

Early Prevention and Intervention: providing earlier intervention and support to prevent problems and reduce the risks that might lead to suicidal behaviour.

Objective 2:

Responding to Immediate Crisis: providing support and services to people at risk and people in crisis, to provide an immediate crisis response and to help reduce the severity of any immediate problem.

Objective 3:

Longer-Term Work to Provide Hope and Support Recovery: providing on-going support and services to enable people to recover and deal with the issues that may be contributing to their suicidal behaviour.

Objective 4:

Coping with Suicidal Behaviour and Completed Suicide: providing effective support to those who are affected by suicidal behaviour or a completed suicide.

Objective 5:

Promoting Greater Public Awareness and Encouraging People to Seek Help Early: ensuring greater public awareness of positive mental health and well-being, suicidal behaviour, potential problems and risks amongst all age group and encouraging people to seek help early.

Objective 6:

Supporting the Media: ensuring that any depiction or reporting by any section of the media of a completed suicide or suicidal behaviour is undertaken sensitively and appropriately and with due respect for confidentiality.

Objective 7:

Knowing What Works: improving the quality, collection, availability and dissemination of information on issues relating to suicide and suicidal behaviour and on effective interventions to ensure the better design and implementation of responses and services and use of resources.

The Scottish Executive believes that providing national leadership and support to local action will be key to ensuring that there is continued attention and commitment for this strategy and action plan.


Suicide affects all parts of society. To ensure that we bring about change in the short and longer term, it will be important to focus actions and efforts on a number of priority groups. During the consultation process a number of priority groups were identified.

These are as follows:

  • children (especially looked after children)

  • young people (especially young men)

  • people with mental health problems (in particular those in contact with mental health services and those with a severe mental illness such as people with severe depression or severe anxiety disorders)

  • people who attempt suicide

  • people affected by the aftermath of suicidal behaviour or a completed suicide

  • people who abuse substances

  • people in prison.

It is also important to focus on:

  • people who are recently bereaved

  • people who have recently lost employment, and people who have been unemployed for a period of time

  • people in isolated or rural communities

  • people who are homeless.

There may also be local priority groups for action, and each Community Planning Partnership will be responsible for identifying these and establishing the appropriate investments and actions to be taken.

Guidance for Practice and Local Work

To help support work in the above priority groups, practice guides will be issued through the Public Mental Health Resource Service. These will include effective interventions and approaches, experiences and lessons from practice and research.

For more information on the initial work of the Public Mental Health Resource Service, see Appendix 6.

Appendix 7 provides some information on work in existence and planned, which is relevant to national and local action in the priority groups identified above.