National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group minutes: April 2020

Minutes of the meeting of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group, held on 1 April.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ms Rose Fitzpatrick (Chair)
  • Ms Rachel Cackett
  • Mr George Dodds
  • Ms Fiona Drouet
  • Chief Superintendent Davie Duncan
  • Mr Toni Giugliano
  • Dr David Hall
  • Mr Nigel Henderson
  • Dr Amy Knighton
  • Ms Lara McDonald
  • Ms Angela Scott
  • Mr Alan Thornburrow
  • Mr Billy Watson

In Attendance

  • Mr Dan Curran (Scottish Government)
  • Professor Rory O’Connor
  • (Academic Advisory Group)
  • Professor Steve Platt
  • (Academic Advisory Group)
  • Mr Craig Wilson (Scottish Government)


  • Ms Jane O’Donnell
  • Ms Nicky Reid
  • Ms Angela Scott
  • Dr Michael Smith
  • Mr Andy Grierson (Programme Manager)

Items and actions

1. Welcome

1.1 The Chair welcomed Members to the fifteenth meeting of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) (the Group) via videoconference. She noted that this meeting was taking place as the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges across society, to which Members and their organisations were responding with huge energy and sensitivity.  She thanked those Members who were able to attend this meeting for their flexibility in attending by teleconference, and highlighted the importance of  maintaining work on suicide prevention at this difficult time.

1.2 Apologies

Apologies were noted.

1.3 Interim Business Arrangements

The Chair reported that Ms Della Robb has moved from the Scottish Government’s policy team to work with the COVID-19 response team and noted that Members who were not at this meeting were involved in COVID-19 work.  This meeting would focus on three significant current issues only and routine business was circulated for noting only.  It was agreed that every effort should be made to continue NSPLG work using business technology.

1.4 February Minutes

The Chair noted that the minutes from the NSPLG meeting in February had been circulated for comment and requested that any further comments be collated by the Secretariat and sent to her to sign off. Action 15.1

2. Midpoint report

2.1 Mr Curran gave an update on the draft midpoint report. It was noted that this report was not intended as a progress report on the work of the Group as this was covered in the first annual report. It is intended to put the Group’s work in context and set out the aspiration of the Group working with Public Health Scotland. The report reflects the discussion at the Group’s February meeting to highlight other issues that should be considered in the creation of a longer term  suicide prevention strategy and consider what work would follow from the current Action Plan. The report is currently due to be published and put forward for consideration to Scottish Government and COSLA in the second half of April 2020.

2.2 There was a discussion during which Members gave specific feedback on the draft report, including the need for a stronger emphasis on the recommendations being made and their evidence base, and to update briefly since the NSPLG’s first annual report on areas of work such as Action 3, Action 4 and Action 8. Members agreed the report should also have a focus on children and young people in response to the 2018 data.

2.3 Mr Dodds reported that he had shared the section that refers to Public Health Scotland with Ms Angela Leitch, Chief Executive of Public Health Scotland for comments and would provide further feedback on any suggested amendment. Action 15.2

2.4 Prof O’Connor suggested, and Members agreed, that the midpoint report should also reference the point that mental health (and by extension, suicide prevention) should be at the heart of the pandemic response and the Group would carry on its work as far as possible during this period. Mr Dodds offered to share wording on this. Prof O’Connor reported that a survey jointly funded by University of Glasgow, SAMH and Samaritans was being launched to research the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of the population over the next six months.. Prof Platt reported that he is liaising with Ireland’s Suicide Research Foundation to gather information on the impact of mental health and suicidality and to learn from previous situations what the impact might be.

2.5 The Chair thanked Members for their contributions.  Mr Curran would now take the feedback from Members and produce a final draft midpoint report. Action 15.3

3. Action 3 – Suicide Prevention Branding

3.1 Mr Dodds and Mr Watson gave an update on the work being done around Action 3 – Branding. Mr Watson reported that a robust testing process had been undertaken involving numerous stakeholder sessions and focus groups. Brand options evolved as the test sessions happened and eight brand concepts and twelve strapline concepts were developed. It was noted that, as a number of people have different experiences of the impact of suicide, the importance of engaging with society and listening to what the people of Scotland are saying was paramount during the research phase, while being respectful of the work being done by stakeholders.

3.2 The Chair, Mr Dodds, Ms Reid and Mr Watson met virtually with the Minister for Mental Health in March 2020 to present the proposal for new suicide prevention branding and confirmed she supported the proposed brand and strapline.  Arrangements were in hand to present the proposal to Cllr Currie, Chair of COSLA Health and Social Care Board.

3.3 Mr Watson confirmed the brand was on course at present to launch in the first two weeks of May.  The Group discussed the proposed branding. It was agreed that this is an important piece of work and a strong, thought provoking brand had been developed that conveyed a strong message that promoted social movement. There was a discussion around the connotations of the word “Against”. Mr Watson assured the Group that the agency undertaking the work presented a comprehensive analysis of the research to the Sponsor Leads. While the Group applauded the piece of work and respected the findings of the research, they agreed that having sight of the comprehensive research report would be beneficial. Action 15.4

3.4 Ms Cackett commented that the strapline is similar to a Samaritans campaign called “Small Talk Saves Lives”.

3.5 The co-sponsors and Members noted that lived experience is – as set out in the NSPLG terms of reference – at the heart of NSPLG work, and that this gives the work its legitimacy.  It was agreed that a further period of testing would take place with the Lived Experience Panel, and their views would be shared with the Group. Action 15.5

3.6 Prof. Platt shared his experience of different results from pre testing and post testing of a brand. Mr Watson reminded the Group that the brand won’t be the only main means of communication with audiences and there would be other opportunities to communicate messages. It was noted that key messages should be tested with the Lived Experience Panel and agreed in advance of the launch. It was agreed that an interactive session with the Action 3 agency would be set up for Members. Action 15.6

3.7 It was agreed that in addition to working with the NSPLG Lived Experience Panel, feedback would be actively sought from other key demographics/stakeholders. Ms McDonald agreed to connect with Youth Commission to take their views on this. Action 15.7

3.8 Ms Cackett and Mr Thornburrow also offered to faciltate further engagement with their Samaritans volunteers and Business in the Community members respectively. Action 15.8

4. COVID-19 – Organisational Responses

4.1 Members were invited to give an update on their organizational responses to  the COVID-19 pandemic and any broader issues. Issues discussed included the financial pressures faced by families and communities due to loss of income as well as pressures on support services, NHS services and the police. In common with everyone, frontline staff may contract the virus and are following advice to self-isolate, many services are experiencing a rise in staff absence. Many services are being refocussed to respond the pandemic. It was noted that actions were in place locally to adapt ways of working to reduce face to face contact whilst ensuring the population gets the support needed at this difficult and unprecedented time. For example, the Mental Health Foundation has launched a hub on its website containing COVID-19 advice and is ensuring that mental health messages are prioritized more broadly.

4.2 The Chair reported that she spoken with Prof. Louis Appleby, Public Health England to maintain connections around the country and share information around suicide prevention.

5. Close

5.1 The Chair noted that this meeting had taken place during a period of unprecedented challenge for individuals, communities, organisations and government at every level, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.  She thanked Members for all they were doing to respond to those challenges, and to keep a strong focus on mental health and suicide prevention through their remarkable efforts.



Summary of Actions from the NSPLG Meeting held on 1 April 2020

15.1     Members to send comments on February minutes to the Secretariat.

15.2     Mr Dodds to provide any suggested amendment concerning Public Health Scotland to the draft midpoint report.

15.3     Mr Curran to update the midpoint report taking on board feedback from             Members.

15.4     Mr Dodds and Mr Watson to share comprehensive research paper on Action        3 with the Group.

15.5     Mr Dodds and Mr Watson to present findings to Lived Experience Panel, take           their views and circulate to the Group.

15.6     Mr Dodds and Mr Watson to set up an interactive session with the Action 3    agency for Members.

15.7     Ms McDonald to connect with Youth Commission to take their views on the    branding.

15.8     Action 3 sponsors to work with Ms Cackett and Mr Thornburrow to facilitate      engagement with Samaritans volunteers and BITC members on the Action 3        proposal.

Future NSPLG meeting dates:

24 June 2020

2 September 2020

14 October 2020

2 December 2020

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