National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group minutes: September 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group on 15 September 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ms Rose Fitzpatrick (Chair)
  • Ms Rachel Cackett
  • Ms Julie Cameron
  • Ms Fiona Drouet
  • Dr David Hall
  • Mr Nigel Henderson
  • Chief Superintendent Linda Jones
  • Ms Jane O’Donnell
  • Ms Nicky Reid
  • Ms Angela Scott
  • Ms Claire Sweeney
  • Mr Alan Thornburrow
  • Mr Billy Watson

In attendance

  • Professor Rory O’Connor, Academic Advisory Group
  • Ms Laura MacDonald, Programme Manager
  • Ms Claire MacBride-Stewart, Programme Support Officer
  • Mr Mike Burns, Penumbra

Scottish Government

  • Mr Dominic Burns
  • Mr Dan Curran
  • Ms Morag Williamson
  • Mr Craig Wilson


  • Dr Carol Buchanan
  • Dr Alastair Cook
  • Dr Amy Knighton
  • Professor Steve Platt

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed members to the twenty fourth meeting of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) (“the Group”).

The Chair welcomed Ms Reid to her first meeting on return from maternity leave and introduced Mr Dominic Burns from the Scottish Government policy team, noting that he will be the Scottish Government’s lead on the new suicide prevention strategy. It was reported that Ms Lara McDonald had stepped down from the Group and Dr Tiago Zortea had stepped down from the Academic Advisory Group, both having been thanked for their significant contributions.

The Chair noted that this would be the final meeting for founding members Mr Henderson and Ms O’Donnell and thanked them for their influential input over the last three years. The Chair introduced Mr Mike Burns as Mr Henderson’s successor as Chief Executive of Penumbra and new member of the group. It was noted that Ms O’Donnell’s successor would be announced in due course.

The Chair highlighted that there had been substantial activity around Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September 2021, including the launch of United to Prevent Suicide’s current campaign “FC United”, which attracted widespread and high profile public and media engagement.

The Chair reported that she had recently met the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care and highlighted his interest in the work of the group, particularly its engagement with lived experience, supporting local work and exploring the needs of minority groups. The Chair reported that she had been invited to continue in her role as Chair of the group and had been honoured to accept.

The Group was delighted to note that Prof. Platt had been awarded the prestigious Ringel Service Award by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in acknowledgement of his distinguished service in the field of suicide prevention.


Apologies were noted.

July 2021 minutes

The Chair noted that the minutes from the group’s meeting in July had been circulated for comment and requested that any further comments be collated by the Secretariat and sent to her to sign off action 24.1.

Suicide Prevention Action Plan (SPAP) - Programme Management Update

A programme update had been shared with the group prior to the meeting. Ms MacDonald highlighted in relation to action four Bereavement Support pilots that they had recently launched and a referral process had been implemented with Police Scotland. It was also noted that a National Oversight Group and a Research Group had been established. More broadly, it was reported that the Delivery Lead meeting structure had been refreshed and meetings now took place every eight weeks with an informal drop-in session between each meeting.

Locations of Concern

Ms Cackett had circulated a short written update and reported that work was underway in collaboration with Samaritans, Scottish Government, Police Scotland, COSLA and Public Health Scotland to develop an action plan on locations of concern as a way to reduce deaths by suicide under the group’s COVID-19 Statement recommendation on reducing access to means of suicide. It was reported that a series of workshops would take place in October to inform the action plan and to identify short and longer term actions. It was reported that the plan would be evaluated and the proposal would be brought back to the group in November/December 2021. The group expressed its gratitude to Ms Cackett for taking forward this piece of work action 24.2.

What should our NSPLG priorities be for the year ahead?

Trend insight (National Records of Scotland (NRS) and Mental Health Tracker wave four)

Ms Sweeney and Prof. O’Connor gave an overview of data trends from NRS 2020 data and wave four of the Scottish Mental Health Tracker study. It was reported that key findings suggested an increase in poor mental health and suicidal thoughts. It was highlighted that at risk groups included young adults, women, and people from poorer communities. It was noted that key findings of wave four of the Scottish Mental Health Tracker study were similar to UK trends and the evidence showed that there had not been a spike in suicides. However, it was highlighted that there were concerns about potential future spikes due to various influences such as the furlough scheme ending.

It was highlighted that activities to address the data trends could include: promoting mental wellbeing in workplaces; increasing support to poorest communities; scaling up the reach and impact of the Ask Tell Respond learning resources – particularly targeting workforces supporting young people; and increasing focus on reducing stigma.

Government priorities (including Programme for Government)

Mr Curran gave an update on the Scottish Government’s priorities for mental health and suicide prevention. He reported that the Programme for Government had been published in September 2021 and committed to ensuring that at least 10% of frontline health spending would be dedicated to mental health. It was reported that, by the end of this parliament, the Scottish Government would double funding for suicide prevention to £2.8 million per year. This would help ensure that the right investment, policies and services were in place to underpin the new suicide prevention strategy.

It was reported that the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care was keen to focus on community based work, lived experience, engagement in suicide prevention distress work, and understanding groups in distress. It was noted that decisions on spending from the Scottish Government’s Recovery and Renewal fund were in the final stages.

There was a discussion around workforce and place-making. The group considered the definition of workforce within the mental health section of the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government and whether it included groups such as volunteers and unpaid carers. Ms Williamson undertook to seek clarification on this. Action 24.3.

It was suggested that the next suicide prevention strategy should include a focus on geographical communities to ensure that engagement is made with communities that the group haven’t heard from. Ms Williamson undertook to make connections with Scottish Government policy areas on place-making policy and would revert back to the group action 24.4. Ms Sweeney also offered to share work being undertaken by Public Health Scotland action 24.5.

NSPLG action seven work (including responding to reports on racialised communities and veterans)

Mr Watson reported that the specified SPAP work on exploring the needs of veterans and black and minority ethnic (BAME) or racialised communities had concluded, and that the Scottish Government was working with veterans’ organisations building on the findings of that action seven report. He recommended that the group should give consideration to the next steps to build on the action seven racialised communities report. He suggested that, should the group give this further priority, consideration be given to how to achieve ongoing engagement, and suggested focussing on particular priorities over the next twelve months such as stigma, data and workforce, as recommended by the action seven racialised communities report authors. It was agreed that this would require additional resourcing.  Mr Watson suggested that one option might involve setting up a sub-group to represent these communities while working in partnership with those already engaged, such as those who had produced the action seven report.

It was noted that one of the issues raised in the report on BAME or racialized communities was a distrust of services generally, including but not limited to mental health and suicide prevention services. It was highlighted that, in order to gain trust within BAME or racialised communities, further action must be taken by national and local government as well as individual service providers to ensure their voices are heard.  It was agreed that the action seven racialised communities report should be made available to the Scottish Government COVID-19 and Ethnicity Group action 24.6.


There was a discussion of the groups priorities for the year ahead around completing the current Action Plan and supporting development of the new suicide prevention strategy.

A range of views was expressed, including the following. That more work should be done to mobilise delivery across all sectors at a local level. That more work should be done to connect with existing services and a collaborative improvement and learning exercise would help create stronger connections at local level. It was suggested that embedding a whole system approach in one local area with national support could magnify local suicide prevention action. It was highlighted that evidence should be put into practice at local level and that outcomes for a test of change would need to be agreed. It was noted that the Distress Brief Interventions (DBI) programme showed that this approach is achievable. The group warmly supported an offer by Ms Scott and Mr Watson to reshape an initial suicide prevention collaborative proposal being developed by partners across Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray with these observations in mind. It was agreed that a small sub-group be convened to take this work forward. Action 24.7

Views were also expressed that more work should be done to interlink and work across the current actions to achieve maximum impact from the overall action plan. It was also suggested that gaps in evidence should be identified and filled, included by learning from action 10 reviews, and that engagement should take place specifically with under-represented groups during the consultation process for the next suicide prevention strategy to ensure that more voices are heard. It was reported that a scoping exercise at local level is underway to ensure that the needs of children and young people are met within the current action Plan, and that the group should encourage Scottish Government and COSLA to consider how to make sure they are represented in the next suicide prevention strategy. Action 24.8.

Feedback on NSPLG’s focus/priorities and ways of working for the next 12 months

Ms Williamson gave an overview of feedback and suggestions received from NSPLG Members and Delivery Leads on how the group should work over the next twelve months. It was noted that the Lived Experience Panel and Academic Advisory Group would be invited to contribute views to this process over the coming weeks, and the group would be given a summary of key themes emerging from those discussions.

It was highlighted that the group would be moving into a strategic leadership and advisory role and away from focussing on delivery, with the creation of a new dedicated delivery infrastructure finding its place among existing service delivery organisations. It was agreed that this approach would get best value from the Group’s time and expertise.


The Chair thanked the group for their contributions and advised that the next meeting would take place on 10 November 2021. Dates for meetings in 2022 would be sent to the Group in due course action 24.9.

Summary of actions from the NSPLG Meeting held on 15 September 2021

  • members to send any amendments to the July minutes to the Secretariat
  • Ms Cackett to bring updated proposal on locations of concern to the group in November/December
  • Ms Williamson to seek clarification on the definition of “workforce” in the mental health section of the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government
  • Ms Williamson to make connections with Scottish Government policy colleagues on place making policy, and revert to the group with any opportunities and learning
  • Ms Sweeney to share work being undertaken on place making by Public Health Scotland
  • Mr Curran to share the action seven racialised communities report with the Scottish Government COVID-19 and Ethnicity Group
  • Ms Scott and Mr Watson to share an initial suicide prevention collaborative proposal with the Group and set up a sub group to take this work forward
  • Mr D Burns to ensure that children and young people and underrepresented groups are involved in the consultations for the next suicide prevention strategy
  • Secretariat to issue diary requests for the group’s meetings in 2022
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