World Suicide Prevention Day is on Thursday 10 September 2020, with Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub this year more than ever eager to raise awareness with a view to creating a world where fewer people die by suicide.
The subject of suicide has never been more pertinent given alarming research which indicates that a fifth of vulnerable people in the UK thought about self-harming or killing themselves during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic lockdown.
The telephone helpline of Samaritans, a charity which provides talking and listening support to anyone in emotional distress, reported a significant increase in callers in 2020. Many of these people highlighted that they felt more anxious and distressed than ever before as a result of the crisis.
For different reasons, suicide has been further thrust into the spotlight over the last year or so by the deaths of people in the public eye such as Caroline Flack, Jeffrey Epstein and Keith Flint.
Even before the coronavirus emergency it was known that Scotland had the highest suicide rate in the UK, with 16.1 deaths per 100,000 persons.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that in 2018 there were 6,507 deaths by suicide in the UK, with 784 Scottish people taking their own lives. Three-quarters of these deaths were amongst men, and the highest prevalence was amongst people aged 45-49.
This year, a number of medical experts have voiced their concerns that people experiencing suicidal thoughts have been severely affected by the closure or reduction of key services as a result of coronavirus. Adrian James, President of Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
“The pandemic has had a seriously negative impact on mental health. We are concerned by the number of people who were not able to get support during lockdown.
“To meet this anticipated demand we need to see urgent action from governments to deliver significant and sustained investment. Without it, services will struggle to cope.” Tracy Nicholls, Chief Executive of College of Paramedics, echoed Adrian’s sentiments:
“Anxiety and depression are huge. If we have a second wave then we want to protect patients as much as we can.
“The impression generally is that it does feel as if there has been an increase in mental health calls among all ages, not specifically to one particular age group or gender.”
In 2018, Scottish Government published Every Life Matters, Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan. Rose Fitzpatrick CBE QPM, Chair of a National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group implemented to monitor progress in relation to suicide prevention, emphasised the importance of a united national approach:
“In raising public awareness about suicide, we must all work to create a movement in which suicide is no longer stigmatised and suicide prevention is everyone’s business.
“We will continue to work towards a Scotland where suicide is preventable; where help and support is available to anyone contemplating suicide and to those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
“We will work to remove the stigma which prevents people asking for help, and also to empower people to give that help when it is needed.” On suicide prevention in the local area, Cornerstone House Centre’s Development Manager Mary McNeil added:
“For a multitude of reasons, Cumbernauld remains an area in which a range of social, health, environmental and cultural issues exist.
“Making improvements in how people think and behave about suicide is a complex area and needs a range of actions and approaches. Crucial to this is the coordination and delivery of efforts at both national and local levels.
“Anyone can have thoughts of suicide, and everyone can learn to help. Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub is committed to supporting and promoting a range of campaigns and organisations which discuss and raise awareness of suicide and what people can do to help those at risk.”
Earlier this year, during Mental Health Awareness Week, celebrities including Steve Coogan and actors from Still Game threw their weight behind a campaign to raise awareness of suicide prevention in North Lanarkshire.
Suicide Prevention North Lanarkshire’s ‘You Matter’ initiative centred on a short video with 12 household names offering useful tips and advice on how to keep positive and where to get support if you are experiencing low mood or suicidal thoughts.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please be aware that there are a range of free, confidential and compassionate services out there which offer immediate and round-the-clock help.
Within the North Lanarkshire area, local organisations such as FAMS (Families and Friends Against Murder and Suicide) can be contacted 24 hours per day on 07736 326062 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, as can Chris’s House on 01236 766755 or via email at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, if you are a resident of Greater Cumbernauld and need someone to talk to as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Cumbernauld CHaT Service can be contacted on 07940 569527 (every day between 9am and 9pm) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A range of further information, training and suicide prevention resources can be obtained by visiting Public Health Scotland’s website.
For more about this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day theme of working together to prevent suicide, visit the World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 website or input #WSPD2020 on social media.