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Friday, 27 July 2012

Scotland needs a dedicated suicide prevention service, Scotland’s biggest mental health charity said this week.

The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) have made the call after it was revealed suicidal people are turning to the police for help because of a lack of support elsewhere.

The charity said that for too long in Scotland there has been no clear route to support for people who are suicidal.

Police officers in Scotland are dealing with vulnerable people who have either been assessed as not having a psychiatric disorder, and therefore cannot be admitted to hospital, or are under the influence of alcohol or drugs and therefore cannot be assessed.

This lack of support, says the charity, can often lead to them taking their own lives.

Kirsty Keay, National Programme for Suicide Prevention manager at SAMH, said a recent BBC Scotland documentary, which highlighted this lack of support, demonstrated the gap in available services.

Scotland’s suicide prevention strategy, Choose Life, has made good progress in reducing suicide rates and increasing awareness of the issue, she said, but the country’s suicide rates still remained the highest in the UK.

“Psychiatric and community mental health services do their best to help, as do the police,” said Keay.

“But we need to work together – the voluntary sector, police, NHS, Scottish Government and local authorities – to give people a place to turn to when they are desperate.”

Although Scotland has had the highest UK suicide rate for decades, an increase in the number of Scottish men taking their own lives has led to a widening gap between Scotland and England and Wales.

The suicide rate in Scotland is now about 80 per cent higher that the rest of the UK.

Edith Timlin, whose son James took his own life seven years ago and who now runs a forum for families affected by suicide, said the government had got the strategy wrong.

She believes there is too much emphasis on raising awareness of suicide rather than resourcing services to support those feeling suicidal.

“The services you can access are often excellent but there are just far too few. Some rural areas, for example, have no support at all. Yet it is well known that more isolated areas have far higher levels of suicide.

“We need dedicated services in every local authority area in Scotland. We have a prevention strategy but no dedicated services. But we need more services as a matter of urgency if we are to stop these needless deaths.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrats also called for a review of mental health services this week after a parliamentary question revealed that there were more than 1,300 cases of people being readmitted to Scottish mental health hospitals within 28 days of being discharged last year.

Almost one tenth of the total number of mental health discharges in 2011 fell into this category.

Party leader Willie Rennie MSP said: “This cycle of readmissions is damaging for the wellbeing of mental health patients and their families and puts further pressure on the NHS.”

Rennie said the figures underlined the need for the Scottish Government to focus on effective community care for mental health patients once they leave hospital.

“The Scottish Government must promote tailored community mental health care in their upcoming mental health strategy,” said Rennie.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This government believes that mental health services in Scotland should put individuals, families and carers at the centre of care and treatment.

“We are working hard to deliver increasingly joined-up and systematic mental health services, which enable people to keep well and take responsibility for their mental health which is why we launch our new mental health strategy later this year.”

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