Action needed to tackle rising incidence of suicide in Lanarkshire
It is well known that Scotland’s suicide rate is higher than the UK average. In an attempt to address this, the previous Labour administration introduced a target in 2002 to achieve a 20% reduction in suicides by 2013.
It seems that this has reaped partial dividends: over the past 15 years, the suicide rate in Scotland has followed a consistent downward trajectory.
However, there is one worrying exception.
NHS Lanarkshire is the only health board area where suicide rates have risen over three consecutive periods, from 395 deaths between 1997 and 2001, to 444 between 2007 and 2011 (an increase of 12.4%). Over the same periods, the average Scottish rate fell from 4391 to 3980 (a decrease of 9.4%).
Research on suicide shows that the rate tends to be higher in areas suffering from high deprivation and unemployment; it is especially high amongst men under the age of 35.
Lanarkshire (where there is a high level of unemployment amongst young males), reflects this: the rate of suicide amongst men is considerably higher than amongst women, with 64 male suicides in 2011 compared to 30 female.
Any suicide is a tragedy which has a devastating impact on all involved.
On a local level, I would like to see an investigation into why suicide rates within Lanarkshire continue to rise. I would also like to see an increased emphasis – both in terms of publicity and finance – on anti-suicide initiatives such as Choose Life, and charities such as Papyrus and the Samaritans.
No one should ever be left to feel that suicide is the only option.