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Tayside Police warn over 'startling' suicide figures

image captionCharities said people considering suicide needed someone to talk to

A police force has compiled data on calls related to suicide attempts and warned the figures were "startling".

Over the past year, Tayside Police has collected information about every call where someone was at risk of suicide.

It told BBC Scotland it attended about 150 attempted or threatened suicides every month.

Det Ch Insp Gordon Milne, of Tayside Police, said the impact across all Scotland's emergency services was a "significant issue".

A BBC Scotland investigation has had exclusive access to Tayside Police's figures.

They shed new light on what lies behind Scotland's suicide rate - which is almost 80% higher than England and Wales.

More people die by suicide than from road accidents and drug deaths put together. It is the leading cause of death in young men.

Own protection

There are, on average, four suicide deaths a month in Tayside but the police receive about 150 calls each month about suicidal people.

The figures include a number of children, one of whom was just nine years old.

The police try to get people medical help for people but the data suggests there are numerous times where someone who is suicidal is put in a police cell for their own protection, because there is nowhere else for them to go.

Det Ch Insp Milne said: "Extend that out across the whole of Scotland, there is a significant number of calls every day, every week, every year, every month, involving people who are in mental health crisis.

"It is a significant issue and I think it's a significant issue not only for the police and the other emergency services but for society in general.

media captionThe manager of suicide prevention programme says more could be done to help those who are at risk of suicide

"This would appear to be the first time that we've actually measured in its true sense what impact this is having."

The mental health charity SAMH said even these latest figures from Tayside were still just the tip of the iceberg.

They said services were needed which addressed all the needs of people who are suicidal.

"We don't have a service that addresses suicidal thoughts," said Kirsty Keay, SAMH's national suicide prevention officer.

"We don't have a service that helps people with their pain around that issue.

"We have to stop thinking of suicide as purely being within the realms of mental health services to deal with, because it's not," she said

The Scottish government admitted there was a gap in services.

A spokesman said: "It's clearly important that we have the right services in place to support people when they are experiencing distress.

"I think there is evidence to demonstrate that at times services are not necessarily responding in the way in which they should, that they don't give it the level of priority that it should get.

"So it's important that we address these, what are at times gaps in the system, to make sure that it's much more effective."

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