National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group minutes: June 2020

Minutes of the meeting of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group, held on 24 June 2020.

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 Nicky Reid
  • Ms Angela Scott
  • Dr Michael Smith
  • Mr Alan Thornburrow
  • Mr Billy Watson

In Attendance

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


  • Ms Lara McDonald
  • Ms Jane O’Donnell
  • Ms Angela Scott

Items and actions

1. Welcome

1.1. The Chair welcomed Members to the sixteenth meeting of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) (the Group) and thanked everyone for attending via videoconference.  It was noted that the Secretariat are considering meeting platforms that work for everyone and will be considering options for future meetings. The Chair thanked Members for their continued engagement with the work of the Group while progressing other work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

1.2. The Chair noted that the Lived Experience Panel were continuing to meet enabling the Group to progress work and extended thanks on behalf of herself and the NSPLG for their valuable input and flexibility. The latest Delivery Lead reports have been shared with the Group and a revised Delivery Plan will be issued by the Programme Manager. Action 16.1

1.3. Ms Reid announced that she will be taking a period of maternity leave from October 2020. The Chair confirmed that the Minister had accepted the Chair’s recommendation that Ms Reid retain her place on the Group.
1.4. The Chair passed on the Minister for Mental Health’s thanks to the Group for its continued work during this unprecedented time. 

1.5. Apologies were noted.

April Minutes
1.6. The Chair noted that the minutes from the NSPLG meeting in April had been circulated for comment and requested that any further comments be collated by the Secretariat and sent to her to sign off. Action 16.2

2. Lancet Action Plan

2.1. Mr Curran gave an update on the Lancet policy map. The policy map was based on the actions to mitigate risk of suicide associated with the pandemic set out in a paper on suicide risk and COVID-19, published in The Lancet Psychiatry in April 2020. The paper drew together the best evidence-based public health responses to mitigating suicide risk associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Curran thanked Members for their contributions and feedback on the policy map and noted that it was helpful for shaping the Group’s four recommended priorities for a suicide prevention response to the pandemic. He noted that this was not the final version and it would be updated as Ministerial announcements were made as we moved through the phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. He reported that the intention was to publish the current version alongside the COVID-19 Statement and circulate to Ministers, COSLA and partners. There was a discussion around how to update the policy map and possible links with the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Research Advisory Group.

2.2. Professor Platt noted that he was heartened to see that reducing access to means was included in the recommended priorities but cautioned that the challenge should not be underestimated. He also noted the recommended priority on collecting real-time data and offered to share data with the Group via the Secretariat as it was published. Action 16.3

2.3. Professor O’Connor reported that he had placed a bid to develop an app and telephone support service around suicide prevention which would link with Actions 5 and 6. He noted that, if that bid was successful, work would begin in mid-July with a view to launching in September and he would connect with the Sponsors of Actions 5 and 6 to explore how to progress this. Action16.4

3. Action 3 – Suicide Prevention Identity and Branding

3.1. Mr Watson and Ms Reid gave an update on the proposal for the new suicide prevention identity and branding. They reported that, following constructive feedback from sessions with the Group and Lived Experience Panel, work had been undertaken to redesign the proposed branding. In redesigning the brand the creative agency were careful to keep the essence of the original design including wording and visuals that had previously received strong support. The revised brand underwent further public testing with two other designs and it was noted that the majority of the people responding had experience of suicide. 

3.2. The testing resulted in a decisive outcome with rich data supporting the choice of brand. The sponsors gave an overview of the proposed timeline for launching the suicide prevention brand identity and campaign simultaneously in August with potentially a further campaign in autumn 2020, noting that there had been a robust process to get to this stage. It was noted that the campaign would be a shift from other government campaigns, using creative and innovative ideas to create a social movement and get suicide prevention on a national level, but it would not be one sweeping campaign that would attempt to cover all target groups at once. The campaign needed to be focussed and would require a long term plan. It was highlighted that although there were connections to the Scottish Government’s Clear Your Head campaign, this campaign would be separate. It was agreed that with this step forward the Group should revisit its strategy for wider communications and revise the communications plan. Action16.5

3.3. The proposed suicide prevention identity and branding was unanimously supported and signed-off by Members and it was agreed that the sponsors would link with Members and stakeholders to take forward the campaign (ACTION 16.6) and that the Secretariat would share the new branding with the Minister for Mental Health and COSLA at the earliest opportunity. Action 16.7 

3.4. The Chair thanked the sponsors and delivery leads for being deeply considerate of the views of the Group and the Lived Experience Panel. She noted that the Lived Experience Panel provided very candid and honest feedback which helped create this strong brand identity and it was agreed that in the short term they should be assured that their feedback had resulted in their concerns about certain aspects of the earlier proposal being amended, and in due course – and before any public launch – the LEP should have early sight of the new identity and branding. Action 16.8

3.5. There was a discussion around the ownership of the proposed suicide prevention identity, branding and campaign. The Chair highlighted that the Scottish Government is funding the Group to help drive implementation of the Scottish Government’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan. The Group are supporting the Suicide Prevention Action Plan by launching this campaign on behalf of the Scottish Government.

4. COVID-19 Statement

4.1. The Chair provided an update on the drafting of the Group’s COVID-19 Statement, noting that this was originally intended as the Group’s Midpoint Report but the pandemic had overtaken this.  She highlighted that this revised short, focussed Statement would set out the current position in respect of delivery of the Scottish Government’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan; it would recommend additional pandemic-specific action which should now be promoted, including four priorities recommended for immediate action; and it would recommend that the challenges and opportunities of the current situation are built upon to create a long term suicide prevention strategy for Scotland.  

4.2. The draft Statement received unanimous support from Members, with amendments being suggested including an additional section to be added to specify what was known of the current mid-pandemic impact on suicide, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

4.3. It was also agreed that each of the four recommended priorities should include some detail on the action to be taken. The Secretariat would make these amendments/additions. Action 16.9

4.4. The Chair thanked Members for their contributions to strengthen the COVID-19 Statement and noted that it would be sent to the Minister for Mental Health and COSLA at the earliest opportunity. Action 16.10 It was suggested that the statement should then be shared with stakeholders, including those who attended the fortnightly stakeholder meeting with the Minister for Mental Health.  The Chair agreed to request a place on the agenda of the meeting on 10 July. Action16.11

5. Member and Policy Updates

5.1. The Chair invited Members to share any updates on ongoing work and challenges around COVID-19.  Issues reported included continued pressure on NHS services as appointments, consultations and referrals continued to take place remotely and the expectation that referrals to acute services would increase.  Concerns were raised around the economic impact of COVID-19 and how the drivers for suicide may intensify as the furlough scheme is wound down. 

5.2. There were concerns around the significant and ongoing impact on the mental health of all children and young people, especially those in distress, and the lack of signposting for mental health support. It was noted that there was continuing concern around the CAMHS crisis service and that Penumbra had written to the Children and Young People Mental Health Board to ask what action was being taken on those issues. It was noted that the Mental Health Foundation had written to Ministers recommending that a wider range of mental health support should be available in schools. 

6. Close and Date of Next Meeting

6.1. The Chair thanked Members for the work they were doing individually and collectively to enable critically important work on suicide prevention to continue during the pandemic.  The next formal meeting of the Group would take place (likely virtually) on 2 September 2020.

Summary of Actions from the NSPLG Meeting held on 24 June 2020

16.1    Mr Grierson to share a revised delivery plan with the Group.
16.2    Members to send any further comments on the April minutes to the secretariat.
16.3    Professor Platt to share real-time data as it becomes available.
16.4    Professor O’Connor to connect with Members to explore how to progress work on the suicide prevention app.
16.5    Mr Grierson to explore revision of the communications plan.
16.6    Action 3 sponsors to link with Members and stakeholders to take forward the suicide prevention campaign.
16.7    Secretariat to send the revised suicide prevention brand identity to the Minister for Mental Health and COSLA.
16.8    Action 3 Delivery Leads to update the LEP that their feedback on the identity and branding had resulted in significant amendments and that the new     materials would be shared with them before the public launch.
16.9    Secretariat to make amendments to the COVID-19 statement taking on board further comments.
16.10    Chair to sign-off amended COVID-19 Statement and secretariat to send to the Minister for Mental Health and COSLA Spokesperson for Health and     Wellbeing.
16.11    Chair to write to Scottish Government to propose presenting the COVID-19 Statement at the Minister’s stakeholder meeting on 10 July 2020.

Future NSPLG meeting dates:

  • 2 September 2020
  • 14 October 2020 (Engagement Event)
  • 2 December 2020
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