Creating Hope Together: suicide prevention strategy 2022 to 2032

Scotland's Suicide Prevention Strategy covering the period from 2022 to 2032.

How we developed this strategy

The Scottish Government and COSLA agreed with the NSPLG’s advice on the value in developing a long term (10 year), outcomes-focused, suicide prevention strategy, supported by a number of shorter-term action plans. The Scottish Government and COSLA are equally committed to delivering the strategy and action plan, with joint responsibility for delivery.

Lived experience and stakeholder insight

The hugely valuable contribution of lived experience to delivering Every Life Matters has confirmed the importance of ensuring people’s voices sit at the very heart of our suicide prevention work. Lived experience has therefore been a cornerstone of our strategy development approach.

We began by listening to people who have an interest in suicide prevention, through personal or professional experience. Between September 2021 and January 2022, conversations and questionnaire responses provided valuable information and insight to allow key themes to emerge. The key themes were: awareness raising and training (for professionals and non-professionals), campaigns, language and stigma, lived experience, schools focus, and funding.

Throughout May and June 2022, we undertook targeted engagement to explore these themes by engaging with stakeholder organisations working in key sectors, such as criminal justice, education, first / emergency responders, and the private sector. This engagement was extremely valuable in identifying ways to expand and refine our suicide prevention approach based on the initial themes, as well as identifying new actions and ways of working.

Data and evidence

Data and evidence have also played a central role to the development of this strategy. This includes published data and research, both Scottish and international, as well as specific themed research and analysis carried out by our Academic Advisory Group (AAG). The AAG has also provided valuable insight and guidance throughout the process.

A whole of Government and society approach

Wide engagement has taken place across Government and COSLA teams to identify opportunities for suicide prevention to be connected into wider policies and their delivery. These opportunties are intended to both address the social determinants / causes of suicide and to ensure we can maximise the opportunities to identify and support people who are suicidal, including marginalised and minority groups.

This engagement has resulted in a wide range of opportunities – many of which will be taken forward through existing or developing policy programmes beyond suicide prevention. Where this is the case, we will work with those policy areas to ensure a joined-up approach across our respective work. We will also look to ensure their contribution to suicide prevention is identified in their work.

The associated action plan to this strategy sets out the current set of whole of Government and society policy actions. We expect these policy connections to continue to develop on a rolling basis in line with wider developments across Government and society.

Key whole of Government and society policies include:

  • Mental health & wellbeing strategy – we know that to reduce the rates of suicide in the future, we need to provide the conditions for promoting mental wellbeing, addressing social determinants of poor mental health and preventing (where possible) mental illness. This work is best placed within the scope of the mental health and wellbeing strategy which will be published in the coming year.
  • Supporting mental health of the workforce – we want to ensure that that everyone in a front-facing role feels supported to provide person-centred, trauma-informed, rights-based, compassionate care and services that promote better population mental health and wellbeing outcomes. We will review the evidence, and commission new research where needed, to identify where staff are at higher risk or have high exposure to suicide and will use this to inform future suicide prevention activity and targeted support. We will also continue to support the wellbeing and mental health of the health, social work and social care workforce through a range of national resources and will continue to engage with these sectors to identify new initiatives as appropriate.
  • Self-harm strategy – work will continue to develop a standalone self-harm strategy which will publish in 2023. We know for many people, self-harm is a way of coping with their distress and is not a path to suicide. However, we also know self-harm does increase the risk of suicide. So while the self-harm strategy will be separate from the suicide prevention strategy, there are important links to be made. The suicide prevention action plan sets out a number of actions to improve responses for people who are suicidal which we consider will be equally valuable in improving the response to people who seek help for their self-harm.
  • Poverty – one of the greatest risks of suicide is living in the lowest socio-economic areas. Through implementation of this strategy, we will ensure there is a focus on the impacts of poverty on suicide risk. We will ensure our policies on poverty and deprivation – for adults and children – connect to our work on suicide prevention, for example, building connections at local level between leads for suicide prevention and child poverty.
  • Children, young people and families – the suicide prevention needs of children, young people and their families are considered through a wide range of Government policies. This includes: children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, education, whole family support, trauma and adverse childhood experiences, child poverty, student mental health, eating disorders, and perinatal and infant mental health. We will build on the span of work already in place to support children and young people, as well as fathers and perinatal women, including where they experience suicidal thoughts and behaviour – so that they are supported in a timely, safe and compassionate way.
  • Homelessness – we will ensure suicide prevention is integrated in our homelessness policy, including prioritising suicide prevention training for staff working in these settings and services. We will also, where appropriate, ensure housing staff are included in the multi-agency case management approach for anyone who is suicidal.
  • Substance use – we know there is a link between suicide and substance use. We will identify opportunities to work jointly across these issues, where relevant, as part of the National Drugs Mission. We will also engage with mental health services to support the implementation of the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) standards and ensure staff working in alcohol and drug services are prioritised for suicide prevention training.
  • Criminal justice – we will build on the existing partnerships across justice and wider public services, to explore how to better support people in the justice system who may be at higher risk of suicide. This will include exploring how to embed suicide prevention as part of release planning and co-ordination, and as part of wider through-care activities.
  • Planning and building standards – we will use planning policies to build suicide safer communities. This will include making links between suicide prevention and the National Planning Framework (NPF4) and consider whether targetted regulatory interventions on the development or management of buildings, would assist in reducing suicide risks.

Formal public consultation

In July 2022, we published the draft strategy and action plan for public consultation. We received 212 responses; 71 from organisations, and 141 from individuals. We have incorporated feedback into this final strategy, and accompanying action plan (we will also publish a consultation report shortly).

Ongoing engagement and participation

We recognise the value in continuing to engage across sectors and with new and existing partners and organisations; as well as hearing first hand from people with lived experience. We are committed to maintaining this participative approach as the strategy and action plan are implemented.

In particular, we know there is further work needed to fully understand the needs of children and young people. We will work with the new Youth Advisory Group – and other leading children and young people’s organisations and groups – to understand their needs and co-produce approaches with them.

We also know that some groups have suicide prevention needs which are specific to their experiences, such as LGBTI people, racialised groups, and migrants. We are fully committed to engaging with members of these communities – and trusted organisations who work with and for them – to ensure we continue to build our understanding of their needs and take tailored suicide prevention approaches.

The diagram below demonstrates the way in which the work will be informed, as the strategy and action plan are implemented.

How suicide prevention work in Scotland will be informed

  • Practice Insight
  • Lived Experience Insight
  • Subject Expertise
  • Data and Evidence



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