Proposed cuts to suicide prevention services

Suicide prevention sign on the east sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California. The sign reads "Emergency phone and crisis counseling."

By Joel Jones-Lapsley

Photo Above: Suicide Prevention Sign © Guillaume Paumier on Wikipedia 

Suicide rates have risen in Scotland for the first time in six years. Statistics from National Records of Scotland have shown that 728 people died in 2016 from suicide, 56 more than in 2015.

Speaking to Third Force News, Samaritans’ executive director for Scotland, James Jopling, said: “With suicide rates falling so consistently in recent years, this has to be seen as an early warning sign.

“While we know that rates can fluctuate year-on-year, what we desperately don’t want to see is this rise in deaths turning into a trend.”

The budget cuts proposed today raise concerns over whether the government will be able to keep promises made back in 2002, which suggested that they would do more to combat suicide rates in Scotland.

While death rates have risen they are still lower than 2012.  The Scottish government has been working with Choose Life, a Scottish charity who specialise in suicide prevention, since 2002, when they set out a National Strategy.

Part of the strategy was to reduce suicide rates in Scotland by 50% by 2010, a target that was achieved.  In 2013, a revised Action Plan was added that aimed to further reduce deaths while providing more preventative care.

However, with the recent rise in suicide rates and proposed cuts to funding, charities are questioning whether the government’s action plan will be achievable.

West Lothian College Student Support Worker, Helen Wilson, said: “Although internally we have had a slight increase in funding we are finding that when we refer students to outside services the funding is definitely not there.

“We can only do so much, but when we refer them, the doctors just don’t seem to have the training or the means to support these young people. Last week a receptionist for a doctor told me to tell the student to call the Samaritans, which is simply not good enough.”

“We have had cases where GPs have told students to come back to us because we will be more likely to get them help than they will be. Kids wait for months and months for a specialist through the NHS.”

Asked whether the NHS and government are doing enough, she said: “No, the services do not have the resources to help the number of people who need care. They are not coping on a number of mental health issues.

“The children and young people’s teams are getting cut backs now. They are looking to cut local support by 60%, which is absolutely ridiculous.”

All parties believe that more services are needed, but with the current state of the NHS and more cuts seemingly imminent, this may not be achievable.