Suicide rates in Dundee are higher than any other city council area in Scotland, according to a new report.
The Scottish Suicide Information Database also shows that men accounted for three-quarters of suicides across Tayside in the last seven years.
According to the report, there were 164 deaths caused by suicide in Dundee with an average of 16.7 per 100,000 population between 2011 and 2017.
Angus along with Perth and Kinross Councils recorded 98 and 126 suicides respectively.
For Tayside as a whole, 388 suicides were recorded with an average per 100,000 population of 14.1.
Men were more likely to take their own lives, with the rates across Scotland highest among those aged 35-54 and in deprived areas.
Nearly three-quarters of those who died had contact with healthcare services in the year before their death.
An inquiry is currently under way into NHS Tayside’s mental health services after a number of concerns surrounding the Carseview Centre.
Phil Welsh, whose 28-year-old son Lee took his own life last year, said the latest statistics were “damning”.
He said: “It’s clear that there’s a situation here that isn’t working.
“I think the fact there is an inquiry shows there’s something amiss.
“Mental health is a discussion point now but it’s all well talking, we need support for people afterwards and that is why we badly need a crisis centre.”
A spokeswoman from NHS Health Scotland said: “National suicide prevention programmes need to incorporate a comprehensive public health approach which seeks to reduce stigma, improve mental wellbeing in the whole population and address the underlying causes of poor mental health.”
Scarlett Moffatt returned to Twitter this week after a self-imposed social media ban. Scarlett Moffatt has indicated that she’s experiencing a ‘constant battle of emotions.’ Following a self-imposed social media ban, the vivacious TV personality, 27, agreed with a Twitter user who said that balancing a bubbly personality with ‘shitty mental health’ was confusing. Scarlett is believed to be going through her second break-up with ‘pathological liar’ Lee Wilkinson and deleted her Instagram for a week at the end of July saying she was ‘[honestly so done] with every aspect of social media.’ On her return this week, Scarlett wrote ‘agreed’ with two supportive kisses under a tweet that said: ‘Having shitty mental health but your personality being naturally bubbly & outgoing is theeee most confusing thing. Constant battle of emotions.’ Scarlett has previously spoke about how being in the spotlight affects her mental health. At the end of last month, she vented her frustration at Twitter users who insulted her appearance on Love Island: After Sun. She wrote: ‘I wanted and felt like I had to write that tweet to let you know at the end of the day I’m a 27 year old girl with feelings & a family who get upset also when they see vile comments about my appearance. Something needs to change with our society!!’ She also hinted that pap pictures were beginning to bring her down, warning that unflattering photos can affect people’s mental health. Before finding fame, the former Gogglebox star said that experiences of anxiety and dizzying panic attacks affected her on a daily basis. Writing in her autobiography Sofa, So Good, Scarlett confessed: ‘When you talk about it, it becomes less stressful. I don’t think anyone should feel like it’s a problem, because it’s not something you can help: that’s just how our brains work. ‘There’s such a stigma attached to anxiety, so it’s good to brush that away, nobody should feel embarrassed or alone. The more people talk about it, the more people will understand it and know how to act.’ ‘I still have bad days. What people need to understand about anxiety and panic attacks is that it isn’t necessarily the big things that can make you feel nervous, it can be little things too.’
Kilmarnock striker has launched The Kris Boyd Charity, which will offer a range of services to help tackle mental health problems.Kris Boyd is pictured at the launch of his charity
Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd hopes to honour the memory of his late brother Scott by encouraging more people to open up about their mental health issues.
The former Scotland international and his family were struck by tragedy in September 2016 when his younger sibling took his own life at the age of 27.
But Boyd has now decided to set up his own charity in the hope he can help others suffering with mental health problems.
The 34-year-old has teamed up with life coach Donald MacNaughton to form The Kris Boyd Charity, which will offer a range of services to help tackle the problem.
The subject is close to his heart but Boyd believes more people will be able to deal with their issues if they feel able to talk about them.
“In the world of football you always see it,” said the ex-Rangers striker. “There’s a lot of kids out there whose dream doesn’t really work out and you can see them struggling once they leave football. But this is a big problem everywhere – not just in football.
“So it’s always been something that has been in the back of my mind.
“Then when what happened with my little brother – which was obviously a big shock and is still raw – it made me decide to try to raise awareness about this issue and make people understand themselves basically.
“The stigma is there in every day life. It can be a male thing in Scotland to act the tough man and just get on as if nothing has happened. But the reality is if people open up and speak it can help everyone.
“I started talking to Donald and realised there was an opportunity for me to go and tackle something that inside football I felt was a big problem.
“After what happened with Scott and even just being a father and a husband, I realised that life isn’t plain sailing. There are ups and downs.
“Social media can play a part. When you look online everyone else’s life looks rosy. You have people posting pictures of themselves out for a steak dinner or having lobster. But what they don’t post is the toast and beans they had the night before. But if you’re looking at everyone having a great time, it’s easy to ask, “Why aren’t I?”.
“So being able to understand that is the big thing. Being able to understand you’ll have good days and bad but that you can also come out the other side of it. And really understanding yourself gives you the best chance to do that.
“We still don’t know why my brother did what he did but if we can help others to understand themselves, hopefully they won’t get to that stage. If we’re able to help one person then it’ll be a success.”
The most magical time of the year? TV adverts show perfectly joyful families, and Facebook posts give the impression that Christmas for everyone else is a blissful utopia of laughter, games, roaring fires and food that looks like Nigella just cooked it.
The reality for many is quite different. One in ten people feel unable to cope at Christmas, and this increases to a staggering one in three for people with a mental health condition. Worries about money, loneliness, and stress and anxiety over the pressure to have that ‘perfect’ Christmas are common.
I’ve found the last few years pretty difficult – a huge pressure to make everyone happy and ‘get it right’ on a limited budget as a single parent, together with the inevitable post-Christmas self-reflection. So much so that on the 28th December last year, I was minutes away from ending my life and ended up in the care of the mental health crisis team.
Here’s my alternative festive to-do list for a mentally healthy holiday season:
1) Let go of all expectations and don’t even try to make it ‘perfect’
This year I’m just going to ‘be’ rather than ‘try’. So what if I don’t get round to cleaning the patio doors? (I just laughed as I wrote this, that’s so not going to happen). So what if I forget gift tags? (I can improvise). So what if some people don’t want to join in family games? You’ll find that if you let go you will end up having a less anxious time than usual anyway. If anything goes wrong, so be it. Accept it and move on.
2) Don’t overdo it on gifts, food or alcohol
Finances are more difficult than ever this year for so many, overspending is common, debt increases stress. Drinking alcohol exacerbates many mental health conditions. So much of the food and silly gifts we buy at Christmas ends up in a landfill. Make sure you eat healthily and don’t feel the need to fill the fridge with food you will likely end up throwing away. Instead, why not give some gifts of your quality time in the form of a Christmas ‘cheque’?
3) Be kind to yourself and make self-care a priority
Make a pact to not beat yourself up for anything this Christmas. If you need to take time out alone to read a book, or have a soak in the bath, do it. Remember in a plane crash you are instructed to put your own oxygen mask on first before your child’s, so you are more able to help them. Self-care is the same as doing this.
4) Keep active and go outside every day for at least five minutes
I’ve found over Christmas that some years I can go days without spending any time outdoors or being active. Exercise is key for keeping mentally healthy (I’m not suggesting going for a ten mile run on Christmas morning, that’s pretty hardcore) but make it a priority to get outside for a walk in a park or garden for at least five minutes. This scientific study proves that even that short time is optimal for reducing stress and anxiety.
5) Take just one minute several times a day to deep breathe
Doing good definitely does you good. Giving time to others has a huge impact on our own self-esteem and mental well-being, as well as benefitting the recipient. Go visit an elderly neighbour or offer to help at the local food bank with packing or deliveries.
7) Ask for support and talk about how you feel as soon as you feel low
Don’t put on a brave face. Don’t assume people are too busy to listen over Christmas. If you need to talk to friends or family, do so. Don’t be ashamed of saying you feel anxious, depressed or overwhelmed – it’s common and the more we all talk about it, the easier it will be. For crisis support for yourself or someone you may be concerned about, see your GP, go to your local A&E dept, or contact the Samaritans on 116 123.
8) Get in touch with people you don’t see often
This doesn’t have to be in person if this will add to your overwhelm and to-do list. Text or email someone to let them know you are thinking of them, and it will make you feel better too.
9) Don’t feel guilty about saying no
If you are tired and can’t face another social invite, don’t be afraid to say no. Equally, don’t isolate yourself either. Think carefully about your reasons. Am I hesitant to go because I feel under-confident, and as if I will be a burden? How many times have I socialised over the Christmas period already? Am I just tired? Think mental health first, always.
10) Remember what’s important and practice gratitude
Write down three things every morning that your grateful for. This could be as simple as the way your daughter told her Christmas cracker joke, or the Michael Buble song on the radio. Remember what’s important to you this time of year, and put peace and mental health at the top of the list.
People are encouraged to seek help if they are feeling suicidal like never before. Yet a deadly new mix of funding cuts and dangerous ideas about suicide are leaving many people with long-term conditions at greater risk.
Tom is 22 and has made a couple of serious attempts on his life following prolonged periods of depression. “When I regained consciousness after the last attempt”, he said, “I was told ‘If you really want to kill yourself, you would have done it’.” Tom, like many other people, feels like when he now contacts the crisis team, they treat him brusquely. “It is like they will only take me seriously if I actually die”, he continued. “I am told again and again ‘well if you really want to kill yourself, that’s your choice’.”
We are not talking about nuanced Schopenhauerian conversations about the right to die here. In the context of deep despair, the idea of choice is a deadly one, absolving the other party from doing everything they can to help the person in pain. If one is suicidal it is very difficult to feel any hope that things might change; one is often exhausted. It is crucial that hope is held actively by mental health professionals at these bleakest moments in a life.
Laura, 60, has also made multiple attempts on her life. She has been told that she should “take responsibility” when she is feeling suicidal, an idea fuelled by the neoliberal discourse of rights and responsibilities which has taken hold of mental health services. “There is a strict management plan and boundaries in place”, she said. “I am allowed to call the crisis team three times a week, and the calls are time-limited. When I do call, I am only allowed to talk about the present not the past”, she says. “If I try to talk about anything else, or call at another time, I am told I am ‘threatening suicide’.”
The approach to suicide prevention Laura is receiving is based on a behavioural “carrot and stick” approach to mental health. The idea is to shape behaviours into ones which are healthier in the medium term by positively reinforcing only “healthy” boundaried behaviours, though distress can increase in the short term. This kind of approach is very dangerous if it is transmitted in a judgmental, blaming way; it should only ever be attempted slowly in collaboration with patients with the explicit recognition that change is incredibly hard, and that patterns of behaviour in the face of overwhelming distress have developed for an understandable reason.
Yet these are now being used by undertrained staff, without the consent or understanding of patients, and without giving people access to the kind of long-term therapy so essential to working through the experiences behind the pain. This is actively re-traumatising patients.
“They treat me like a bad person, who doesn’t deserve care and support” says Laura, who has been treated abusively throughout her life.
Laura has a diagnosis called “borderline personality disorder” – a diagnosis that lacks scientific validity and is steeped in misogyny. This diagnosis demonstrably makes professionals more likely to treat patients with distance, fear and sometimes disdain – the feelings of rejection are not simply a result of projection. Like many others, Laura is made to feel like she is “attention seeking” and “manipulative” when she is suicidal or makes attempts on her life. “I don’t do this for fun,” Laura said of her recent suicide attempt, “I do it when there is nothing else left”.
Roger, 34, has also been told the decision to end his life is his because he is deemed to have something called mental capacity. Mental capacity, simply, is the ability to weigh up information and make decisions, something that fluctuates in the throes of a mental health crisis. Mental capacity should never be used to justify withholding treatment from someone seeking help. But mental health services, desperately underfunded, seem to be using ever more drastic means to buffer increasing demand. “I am desperate for help” said Roger, “and my GP keeps writing to mental health services, but the letters get returned unanswered.
When people are finally able to access crisis care, many feel that the emphasis is on getting rid of them as quickly as possible. “They tell me to distract myself, or take a bath, or go for a walk when I am feeling suicidal, when what I actually need is a few kind words and some compassion”, one service user reported. Psychiatric inpatients have even been told to phone the Samaritans if they wish to talk.
I am writing this article in awareness that most mental health services do a fantastic job, and with the wish that people continue to seek help. I cannot emphasise enough how many people I have met who have made multiple attempts on their life, often over many decades, and come to thrive.
But I write too with a desperate request that we not only fund crisis services better, that we not only skill mental health staff to be able to contain suicidal despair, but that we change attitudes around suicide within psychiatric services which block people from care. It is inexcusable that mental health services make people feel like a burden for continuing to struggle, that we take away from them the possibility of help and therefore hope.
In memory of JL
Dr Jay Watts is a consultant clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, and honorary senior research fellow at Queen Mary, University of London
The festive season might seem to fill everyone else might be full of excitement and anticipation, but you can’t shake the nagging feeling that your mental health is about to take a turn for the worse.
It might feel counterintuitive that a period of family, time off work and eating your body weight in chocolate could make you feel low, but many people find exactly this in the run up to Christmas.
The reasons for this can be very personal (perhaps you’ve lost someone close to you and the holidays remind you of this) but there are lots of common things that might be triggering this feeling too.
So HuffPost UK spoke to experts who specialise in anxiety, depression, and more general mental health to ask why these things can be triggered at this time of year.
Why does my mental health get worse at Christmas?
It’s no surprise that many people worry about being able to afford all the extra expenses the season brings, especially as the costs just keep racking up, and knowing that this will continue into the new year can make the problem even worse.
A spokesperson for Anxiety UK says: “Financial difficulties may cause a great deal of anxiety at Christmas with presents to buy, outfits to pick out and all the festive ‘essentials’, such as tree decorations and gift-wrapping that need to be considered.
“Navigating your way through crowded shopping centres can also prove to be a nightmare.”
A 2015 survey by Mind found that 20% of people have felt lonely during Christmas as not everyone has family or friends to spend it with, and those of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one may find Christmas particularly difficult.
Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind, says: “At Christmas existing problems can seem even bigger – if you are lonely, it can highlight how lonely you are and make you feel that you should be socialising.
“Although loneliness itself isn’t a mental health problem, the two are often strongly connected and feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your mental health.”
More Social Engagements
This might seem ironic given that many people struggle with loneliness, but those people who do have active social lives might find this doesn’t solve the problem either, as this party season can be overwhelming.
The Mind survey also found that 19% of people had pretended to be sick to get out of staff Christmas parties and 25% of adults in UK feel anxious about social gatherings during the festive period.
If you do make it out of the house, the amount you are drinking at this social occasions (and just about anywhere else around Christmas) can make mental health worse as well, as it exacerbates anxiety.
Chloe Brotheridge, an anxiety expert at Calmer You, says: “Despite its association with merriment, alcohol is actually a depressant, it lowers our sleep quality, and many people experience hangover anxiety (hangxiety) the day after a big night on the booze.”
Everyone knows that social media can be the perfect catalyst for perpetuating feelings of low self-esteem and self-comparison, as it encourages us all to believe we should have a perfect Christmas.
The Anxiety UK spokesperson added: “Those of us with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram may feel even more pressure to have a ‘perfect holiday’ as our feeds continually update us on the developments of other peoples’ lives.”
Darker evenings and colder weather can have an impact on our daily lives, and going for days without seeing any sunlight may lead to feelings of sadness.
What can I do to improve my mental health at Christmas?
Share Your Feelings
Whether it is with family, friends, or a trained counsellor, sharing how you are feeling is the first step towards making things better at any time of the year.
Stuart Hill, senior digital lead for the Mental Health Foundation, says: “It’s hard to admit that at such an exciting time of year you don’t actually feel that great. But talking about your feelings can improve your mood and make it easier to deal with the tough times. It’s part of taking charge of your mental wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy.”
Get Out Of The House
It can be tempting just to hibernate, avoid social engagements, and not leave the house, but Hill says that you shouldn’t let the cold weather put you off.
“It’s no surprise that cold weather and short days are not the greatest motivation to get you out of bed and on a 5k run! But research shows that doing exercise releases chemicals in your body that can make you feel good. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you to concentrate, sleep and feel better,” says Hill.
Take A Break From Social Media
If you think that social media could be playing a part in how you’re feeling (it is likely to be doing so) then why not take a digital detox and step away for a little while. It can be 24 hours or days, depending on how you feel, but you might be surprised by the difference.
Buckley says: “If you are feeling bombarded by external pressure to be spending money, socialising and having a good time over the festive period, you could consider taking a break from technology and set aside some time each day to do something else you enjoy like reading a book or watching movies.”
Give Some Thought To Self-Care
As soon as our mental health suffers, we can all be guilty of not taking the time to address our own self-care (especially around Christmas when we are so busy with other commitments).
Botheridge says: “If it’s not scheduled in, it often doesn’t happen so I believe we need to schedule our downtime and self-care to ensure we make it our priority. Several times a day, check in with yourself and ask yourself – how am I speaking to myself right now?”
Eat Well And Drink In Moderation
Of course we want to stuff our faces completely overindulge, but actually this can just contribute to an all-round ill picture of health (not just mentally).
Hill says: “For example, too much sugar can have a noticeable effect on your mental health and wellbeing in the short and long term.
″[And] some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only ever temporary. It’s great to catch up with friends or colleagues in the pub – spending time on good relationships is essential for good mental health – but know your limits. It’s important to maintain your wellbeing, too.”