Suicide rates rise to highest in almost a decade
The number of suicides recorded in Scotland increased last year, marking the highest annual total in almost a decade.
Statistics published by National Records of Scotland show 833 people died by probable suicide in 2019, compared with 784 deaths in 2018.
This represents an increase of six per cent and also the highest annual total since 2011 when 889 deaths by suicide were recorded.
Men accounted for nearly three quarters – 74 per cent – of probable suicides in 2019, while nearly a third – 32 per cent – of the recorded deaths were of people aged between 45 and 59.
People living in disadvantaged communities were three times more likely to die by suicide compared to those in wealthier areas between 2015 and 2019.
The latest figures have sparked renewed calls for improved mental health services and shorter waiting times for those seeking help.
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton has called for "a service transformation from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) through to crisis".
He said: "More than two people a day, young and old, are dying by suicide. Hundreds of families have had their world turned upside down.
"The last few months have been especially tough, but there was a mental health emergency before the pandemic struck. Scotland already had a record number of children waiting over a year for the mental health treatment they need.
"It needs a service transformation from CAMHS through to crisis. Whether it's a first appointment or a crushing need for help, nobody should be left waiting for expert help. But it's happening constantly.”
Scottish Greens health spokesperson Alison Johnstone MSP said the figures show “the urgent need for the Scottish Government to improve access to mental health services”.
She added: “Between 2015 and 2019 the suicide rate in the most deprived areas was three times that of the least deprived areas. It’s no coincidence that the rising number of suicides has coincided with the decimation of the UK’s welfare safety net, the imposition of despicable sanctions and degrading medical assessments.”
In 2018, the Scottish Government launched a suicide prevention action plan last, pledging to reduce the number of suicides by 20 per cent by 2022.
When asked to comment on the latest statistics, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs: “The figures today are obviously of extreme concern and very distressing figures, not least because they do predate the pandemic and we know the additional impact that there has been on people's mental health, over the course of the pandemic so that obviously gives us a cause for concern.”
She added: “The mental health minister has already set out some detail of the work that we are doing through the mental health transition programme to cover mental health services and to look at the additional work that needs to be done to respond, particularly to the pandemic.
“That will include suicide prevention work, but I know the mental health minister will want to respond in full to today's statistics and to set out in more detail the work that we will be doing over the coming period, as we seek to recover in so many different ways from what COVID has thrown at us.”
Scottish Conservative mental health spokesman, Brian Whittle MSP, said: “These figures should be a source of shame for the SNP.
“Every one of these deaths is a tragedy and shows that many people still aren’t able to get the right mental health support when they need it most.
“The SNP aren’t giving mental health services across Scotland enough resources to help those in need and this big increase in suicides is the devastating consequence.
“We know that lockdown and the wider impact of the pandemic is putting everyone’s mental health under more pressure, so SNP ministers must redouble their efforts and guarantee mental health services get the resources they need.”