Almost 6000 Scots took their own lives over seven years

Almost a third of those who killed themselves had called the Scottish Ambulance Service on at least one occasion before their deaths.

Almost 6000 Scots took their own lives between 2011 and 2018, according to newly released statistics.

ISD Scotland said 44% contacted paramedics, NHS 24 or out-of-hours GP services in the year before their death.

Its new report looking into Scotland’s suicide figures reveals almost a third (33%) of those who killed themselves had called the Scottish Ambulance Service on at least one occasion before their suicide.

The study is the first of its kind to look at people’s contact with one of the care services in the 12 months before they took their own lives.

It found the 5982 people living in Scotland who died by suicide over those years “were significantly more likely to have had contact with an unscheduled care service in the 12 months before death than members of the general population”.

The report notes the highest levels of contact with unscheduled care services were associated with women over 75 who are living in the most economically-deprived areas.

Boys and men between the ages of five and 24 were linked to lower levels of contact with these services, as well as those living in more affluent or remote areas.

The report adds: “Health service planners will want to consider possible improvements to the organisation, reach and delivery of services targeted at groups at high risk of suicide, while healthcare providers will want to consider improvements to the identification, engagement and effective treatment of individuals in these groups.”

The findings led to a call from Scottish Labour for more “joined-up working” between health and social care services, as well as more investment for mental health services.

Mental health minister Clare Haughey cited the suicide prevention action plan, which is receiving £3m funding over five years and is chaired by former deputy chief constable Rose Fitzpatrick.

She said: “Every suicide is a tragedy with a far-reaching impact on family, friends and communities.

“Suicide prevention is a key priority for the Scottish Government and requires on-going analysis and research.

“Through our Suicide Prevention Action Plan – supported by £3m funding over the course of the current Parliament – we are working to reduce the rate of suicide in Scotland and are ensuring that those affected by suicide have access to the right support.

“This report represents a significant contribution to the growing evidence base around suicide in Scotland which will inform current and future policy and activity.”

Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “Every death by suicide is a tragedy.

“All of us must get better at listening and talking so that none of us feel alone.

“Reducing mental health stigma needs our collective efforts, proper funding for health and social services, and joined up working so that there is no wrong door.”

The Samaritans can be contacted for free at any time of the day on 116 123.

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