Where we’ve come from – suicide trends and prevention in Scotland
Suicide in Scotland is a significant public health issue which affects all age groups and communities. Although no-one is immune from suicide, some individuals are at greater risk. Data from the Scottish Suicide Information Database (ScotSID) report profiling suicide deaths between 2011 and 2019 shows:
- Just under three quarters of all suicides in Scotland are male
- Almost half (46%) were aged 35-54
- Death by suicide is approximately three times more likely among those living in the most socio-economically deprived areas than among those living in the least deprived area
- 88% of people that die by suicide are of working age with two-thirds of these in employment at the time of their death.
In addition, the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH) annual report, published May 2022, indicated that 31% of people who died by suicide in Scotland had contact with mental health services in the 12 months prior to their death.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2018 report covering suicide rates across the UK highlighted the rate of suicide was higher in Scotland than in other parts of the UK; 16.1 deaths per 100,000 persons, compared to 12.8 in Wales, and 10.3 in England. It is worth noting differences in reporting suicide deaths between England & Wales and Scotland means that direct comparisons cannot be made.
Published in September 2022, Suicide among young people in Scotland: A report from the Scottish Suicide Information Database (ScotSID) identified that between 2011 and 2020 probable suicides were the leading cause of death among 5–24-year-olds, accounting for a quarter of all deaths (recognising there is a much lower death rate from all causes for this age group, compared to over 25s). While children and young people in this age group were less likely than over 25s to have had contact with a healthcare service in the period before death, two-thirds of cases did have contact with healthcare services.
Scotland’s strategic approach
Since the early 2000’s suicide prevention has been a strategic priority in Scotland. The ‘Choose Life’ strategy and action plan laid the groundwork for suicide prevention in Scotland. Specifically, the strategy and action plan established an identified suicide prevention lead in every area of Scotland with responsibility for developing and implementing a local action plan. It also created national infrastructure to support the breadth of work, and this is now delivered by Public Health Scotland (PHS), through ongoing network events, advice, and learning resources.
The strategies and action plans since since the Choose Life strategy and action plan have built on its foundation, and led to the publication of ‘Every Life Matters’ in 2018.
Choose Life Strategy and Action Plan
2003 - 2013
Suicide Prevention Strategy
2013 - 2016
Every Life MattersAction Plan
2018 - 2022
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