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Record suicide rates in Highlands prompt calls for improved access to mental health services

By Val Sweeney

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John Finnie MSP.
John Finnie MSP.

Calls have been made for better access to mental health services in the Highlands after it emerged the number of suicides in the region last year was the highest on record.

New figures released by Public Health Scotland revealed 67 people took their own lives in the region – the highest since 1982.

The figures are the third highest in Scotland, coming behind Glasgow and Edinburgh, and there are fears that the 2020 figures are likely to be higher.

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie said his thoughts went to all those impacted.

"This devastating loss of life shows the urgent need for the Scottish Government to improve access to mental health services – and with figures for 2020 likely to be significantly worse, that improvement cannot come soon enough," he said.

Mr Finnie said encouraging men to be more open about their mental health clearly had a role to play but so too did ensuring support services were there when they sought help.

He said it was no coincidence the rising numbers coincided with the decimation of the welfare safety net by the UK government.

Donna Smith, chairwoman of the Inverness-based suicide prevention charity Mikeysline, said: "For anyone to have taken their own life is tragic so to see the latest figures is even more so and underlines the fact that more support than ever is needed for people who are struggling with how they feel.

"We continue to urge anyone who is struggling to deal with their feelings to reach out and speak to someone, whether that be a family member, friend or support service like Mikeysline.

"There is no shame in asking for help, lots of us need it at some point in our lives, and talking to someone rather than bottling up those feelings can make a huge difference."

Mikeysline offers Live Chat, Twitter or Messenger support as well as a Textline service at 07786 20 77 55.

Related story: Highland charity hopes to secure funding at UK-wide event

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