NHS Health Scotland Campaign supports Suicide Prevention Week in 2019

The theme for Suicide Prevention Week 2019 is:  ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’ and acknowledges the importance that a public health approach is needed to address suicide rates in Scotland.


Suicide prevention is everyone’s business and the new Suicide Prevention Action Plan for Scotland, Every Life Matters, continues this commitment.  The target of reducing the Scottish suicide rate by 20% by 2022 will only be achieved by developing and strengthening greater collaboration at national, local and individual friends/families level.  We are all partners in preventing suicide and we all have a part to play in ensuring every life matters in Scotland.


Ask Tell Save a Life

That’s the message NHS Health Scotland is sending out to people in Dumfries and Galloway to mark this year’s Suicide Prevention Week (9 – 15 September 2019).  NHS Health Scotland and NHS Education for Scotland worked together to develop an online resource ‘Ask Tell Save a Life: Every Life Matters’ to support suicide prevention, as part of the Scottish Government’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan.  This online resource aims to raise awareness of the issues that affect people and which can sometimes lead them to think about taking their own life. The animation is designed to increase the confidence of individuals to support anyone in distress, by directing them to the specialist help they need at that time.


Last year 19 people in Dumfries and Galloway took their own lives.  The emotional impact on families, friends and communities bereaved by suicide is devastating and can have long lasting negative effects on those left behind. Whilst it is difficult to put an exact value on the economic and social cost of a suicide; a figure of £1.5 million per individual has been estimated (https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/zero-suicides).  The ripple effect on families, friends and communities adds another dimension which would increase this figure dramatically.


We are asks everyone to be alert to the warning signs of suicide in people close to them. The message is:

….if you’re worried about someone, such as a friend, family member or workmate, asking them directly about their feelings can help to save their life.


The campaign acknowledges that signs of suicide can be difficult to spot, but encourages people to take all signs of distress seriously, even if it seems a person is living a normal life. It also assures people that asking a person about what’s troubling them can make a positive difference.


People who have tried to take their life can teach us about how the words and actions of others are important. They often talk movingly about reaching the point where they could see no alternative but to take their own life. Despite this, they also had a strong desire to live but wanted someone to intervene and stop them from ending their life. By taking a minute to show you care and asking directly about suicide, you could change their life.


Claire Thirlwall, Suicide Prevention Lead in Dumfries and Galloway said:


“If someone you are close to shows signs of not being themselves, you will normally notice.  When changes in their behaviour begin to worry you – even if the signs come and go – the most important aspect is to ask them about it.
“Talking openly about their feelings can help a person get clarity about what is troubling them. Starting this conversation helps them gain a perspective on their distress. You don’t need to have a solution to their problems – being there for them and listening, without judgement, shows that you care and their distress, and ultimately their happiness, is important to you.”


Claire Thirlwall added: “Ask if they are thinking about suicide. It won’t put the thought into their head if it wasn’t there before, but it can be a big relief for them to be able to open up fully and acknowledge they need help and support.  By taking the time to show you care and are there to listen, you could change their life.”


To support this campaign in Dumfries and Galloway, NHS Health Scotland and NHS Education Scotland have made the animations widely and easily accessible at www.bit.ly/AskTellSaveALife.


Raising awareness of suicide prevention and giving the public information is vital. During 2019 Suicide Prevention Week, activities in Dumfries and Galloway include working with Breathing Space to raise awareness with local groups, suicide prevention training and information stands at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.


If you know or someone you know is feeling suicidal then help can be accessed through contacting your GP or Samaritans on 116123 or Breathing Space 0800 83 85 87 (Weekdays: Monday-Thursday 6pm to 2am and Weekend: Friday 6pm-Monday 6am)

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