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£15,000 to be spent on suicide analysis, after Highland Council discussion

By Val Sweeney

HIGHLAND Council have agreed to invest more cash in suicide research after a rise in deaths in the region.

NHS Highland and Police Scotland want to analyse a growth in probable suicides over the last 18 months, and Highland councillors will today be asked to approve £15,000 towards the work.

It is proposed to investigate how suicide prevention is tackled in other areas of the UK and overseas.

Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “Suicide is a tragic end of a life and has a devastating effect on everyone connected with that person.

"We need to understand what lies behind the stark facts to better plan what we can do to prevent suicide and provide the right support for anyone considering such a desperate and final path.”

A six-page report on suicide prevention written by council chief executive Donna Manson and police Chief Superintendent George MacDonald stated: “Suicide not only affects the immediate family and friends of the individual, but the wider community.

“The effects are devastating and cannot be underestimated and the rates of suicide or attempted suicide in Highland have traditionally been higher than the national average.

“Rates of probable suicide among men are higher than women both nationally and within Highland.

“Although official rates in recent years have shown a decline in the five-year average, local intelligence suggests an increase in probable suicides over the last 18 months.”

It added that although suicide prevention was the priority, a new approach was needed to address the scale of the current challenge.

Highland councillors will be offered suicide prevention training in September and an app to support people feeling suicidal, already trialled in Tayside and Aberdeenshire, will be rolled out.

Ron Williamson, founder of Inverness-based suicide prevention charity Mikeysline, said some ideas had already been implemented and the money could be spent in other ways.

“A lot of what’s being suggested is going over old ground,” he said. “For instance, Mikeysline launched a self-help and signposting app, Bee Appy, three years ago, which was then rolled out in various forms around Scotland.

“Ideally, I would like to see some of the £15,000 being spent on the resilience training that Mikeysline is planning to pilot in primary schools in the Highlands, aimed at giving young children the tools they need to deal with their emotional distress and wellbeing.

“I believe the earlier in age we start the better, and the benefits will be seen in later years.”

New statistics released yesterday show there were 784 probable suicides registered in Scotland in 2018 – up from 680 in 2017.

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