'Devastating' increase in Scotland's suicide rate

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Image caption,
A suicide prevention action plan was published last year

The number of suicides in Scotland increased by 15% last year, according to official figures.

The NHS Information Services Division (ISD) said there were 784 probable suicides in Scotland in 2018 - up from 680 in 2017.

National mental health charity SAMH described the figures as "devastating".

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said the increase was "concerning" - but was in contrast to a fall in the suicide rate over the previous decade.

The new ISD figures highlight that the rate of suicide is three times higher in the most deprived areas of Scotland.

They also show that men are markedly more likely to take their own lives than women.

Underlying reasons

Scotland has had a higher recorded suicide rate than the UK as a whole since the early 1990s, although the ISD said this may be due to the variation in recording practice.

Ms Haughey added: "We want to create a Scotland where suicide is preventable and where anyone contemplating suicide gets the support they need.

"Scotland is not alone in tackling suicide prevention and we will undertake more research to establish the underlying reasons for the increase in 2018."

She said the government was committed to building on the falls in suicide rates between 2004-2008 and 2014-2018.

"Alongside mental health and suicide prevention groups, we are working to raise public awareness and improve crisis support services for at risk groups," she added.

The Scottish government published its suicide prevention action plan in August 2018.

A National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group has been established, and is due to publish its first annual report in September.

'A stark reminder'

SAMH chief executive Billy Watson said: "After a number of years in which we saw an overall downward trend, it is devastating news that significantly more people died by suicide in Scotland last year than in the year before.

"Today's figures show we must redouble our efforts as a nation to deepen our understanding of the causes of suicide, so we can help everyone who needs it.

"At SAMH we are committed to playing our part in this."

James Jopling, the executive director of Samaritans Scotland, said it was "particularly concerned" by an increase in the suicide rate for under-25s, which had risen to its highest level since 2007.

"After years of steady progress, this should serve as a stark reminder that further action is needed to better understand and address all the factors that contribute to suicide - particularly among young people," he said.

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