Suicide prevention leadership group: second annual report

The second annual report of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG).

NSPLG COVID-19 Statement

30 June 2020

The NSPLG published our COVID-19 Statement on 30 June 2020, recommending that suicide prevention should be a priority public health issue and integral to government planning, both during the pandemic and in the longer term.

In our statement we welcomed the initiatives developed and resourced by national and local government and the third sector, to support the mental health of people across Scotland during the pandemic.  We set out our view that specific policy areas beyond mental health policy, such as equalities, employment and the economy, will need to be engaged to address the potential long term mental health and suicide consequences of the pandemic.

Reviewing the available material, we adopted the evidence-based interventions identified by the COVID-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration, in its Lancet Psychiatry paper as a basis for a pandemic-specific plan of action for suicide prevention in Scotland.[15]  Drawing on this evidence and with our knowledge of current suicide prevention work in Scotland, we recommended that four immediate priorities for suicide prevention should be progressed by the Scottish Government and COSLA:

1. Closer national and local monitoring of enhanced and real time suicide and self-harm data — to identify emerging trends and groups at risk for early preventative action.

2. Specific public suicide prevention campaigns, distinct from and in partnership with the umbrella ‘Clear Your Head’ mental health and wellbeing campaign — to encourage people at risk of suicide and in suicidal crisis to seek help without stigma and to encourage others to give it.

3. Enhanced focus on specifically suicidal crisis intervention — to ensure that those in suicidal crisis can access timely help and support, and meet any increase in numbers.

4. Restricting access to means of suicide — to reduce the availability to those in crisis of the most commonly used means of suicide.

These recommended priorities for action were accepted in full by the Scottish Government and COSLA in August 2020. 

Our COVID-19 Statement also addressed and made a recommendation on an important issue brought more strongly into focus by the likely long term impacts of the pandemic on mental health and people’s life circumstances.  As Scotland’s NSPLG we strongly believe that, following on from the three year span of Every Life Matters, Scotland should have a long-term suicide prevention strategy potentially spanning the next 10 years.  We believe that long-term suicide prevention strategy should include a range of specific policy areas beyond mental health policy, in order to address issues such as equalities, employment and the economy which have an impact on the life circumstances of individuals and are integral to preventing suicide. 

This recommendation was also accepted by the Scottish Government and COSLA, and work has begun to consider how best to progress the consultation and co-design which will give Scotland and those affected by suicide now and in the future the strategy and preventative action they deserve.

We welcome the joint response of the Scottish Government and COSLA to our COVID-19 Statement recommendations and their commitment to working together and with a broad range of stakeholders, including most importantly people who have lived experience of the impacts of suicide, to develop a longer-term suicide prevention strategy. 

Every member of the NSPLG is committed to supporting that important work because we know it will save lives.



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