Suicidal Scots are crying out for help

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Figures show suicidal people reach out to health services before they die 

14th November 2017 by Robert Armour 4 Comments

Two thirds of Scots who died from suicide last year asked for help in the 12 months before they died. 

Charity Samaritans says the horrifying findings show how Scottish health services are failing people at risk of suicide. 

The Scottish Suicide Information Database (ScotSID) revealed over a quarter of those who went on to take their own life also attended hospital Accident and Emergency within just three months of their death.

Around 60% had at least one mental health drug prescription dispensed within 12 months of death.

James Jopling, executive director for Scotland at Samaritans said: "While a sizeable minority of those who take their own lives in Scotland are not in contact with healthcare services prior to death, this important report highlights that a large proportion have been. 

“We fully support all efforts to make us all more aware of suicide risks amongst friends and family, but we must also ensure that those professionals that come into contact with people at risk of suicide have the right training and resources to identify, engage and effectively support them.

“We don’t want to miss any chance to change someone’s life."

Included in the report are details into the age, gender, marital status, employment status, occupations, levels of deprivation and other circumstances of the 5,119 people who took their own lives between 2009-2015.

Joplin added: "The report also tells us that of those who do attend A&E in the three months before they take their own life, nearly 40% die within just a week of their last visit.

“We welcome recent Scottish Government initiatives such as the Distress Brief Intervention programme designed to better meet the needs of people who are struggling, but this report suggests there is clearly much more we can do.”

Recently released statistics from National Records of Scotland also show that suicides in Scotland have risen for the first time in six years.

The suicide prevention charity says resourcing and equipping more professionals with suicide awareness and prevention skills needs to be addressed as part of the Scottish Government’s new suicide prevention action plan, due to be published early next year.

Steven Fegan, from Kilmarnock, reached out to Samaritans when he was crisis. “I had been feeling hopeless for a while, so I began to self-harm,” he said. 

“Guilt sat in my mind. Every day I woke I felt weak and being a man you're supposed to be strong, because you’re meant to protect your loved ones.

"I didn't feel like a man because all I was doing was putting the people I loved through misery and stress.

"I just wanted the world to stop and I knew that since that wasn't going to happen the only way out was to end my life. This was the only option I could see."

Comments

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14th November 2017 by Tamsin Kilgour

Please check media guidelines regarding reporting around suicide and then update this article. People do not 'commit' suicide - it is not illegal and the term implies blame/guilt on a person who was struggling so much that taking their own life felt the only option left. Anyone who has done SMHFA, SafeTALK or ASIST training has importance of language use and it's impact on people.

14th November 2017 by Susan Smith

Hi TamsinThanks for this. The article has been updated to reflect your comment.

15th November 2017 by Marion Brown

Please be aware that medications - and including antidepressants - can and do lead to suicides. Many people (including doctors) do not realise this. Patients taking these medicines 'as prescribed' may develop Akathisia - a condition of severe agitation (mental and physical) which is unbearable. Doctors and patients families need to know and recognise the risks and signs of medication toxicity. Please see the very relevant work on the website of Antidepaware. In all cases people may suffer very bizarre and troubling effects (mental and physical) from taking these and other psychiatric medications (interactions, side effects, tolerance and withdrawal effects) and often their doctors and families do not believe what patients are telling them. Knowledge of these issues is extremely important in understanding what may drive people to end their lives by suicide - and to preventing such terrible tragedy. The full report and figures referred to in the article certainly seem to bear this out.

15th November 2017 by Fiona French

It really is very important that the adverse effects of medication is taken into consideration. It is well known that SSRI antidepressants can cause people to commit suicide. See the recent high profile case of GlaxoSmithKlein vs Dolin. Wendy Dolin's husband, a lawyer, committed suicide as a result of being prescribed an SSRI antidepressant. I experienced an adverse reaction to a benzodiazepine 40 years ago. No doctor ever recognised this. I tried many times to commit suicide despite being prescribed antidepressants. It is only now that I am off all medication that it is clear why I have been so unwell for 40 years. It is even more astonishing that I have been unable to find a GP who recognises the many adverse effects of benzodiazepine and antidepressant withdrawal. There are many other patients who cannot find a doctor to understand what is happening to them. If doctors have such limited understanding of the drugs they prescribe, how can other health care professionals be expected to recognise these adverse effects. For 40 years the focus was on my "mental health", it did not seem to occur to anyone to examine the biochemical effects of the drugs I was consuming.