Training to help prevent suicides could be provided in every workplace across Scotland under new plans announced by the Scottish Government.
A new draft suicide prevention action plan has been unveiled, with a pledge to develop a “new, world-leading, comprehensive mental health and suicide prevention training programme”.
Mental health minister Maureen Watt said this should then be provided in workplaces across the country in the same way as first aid training.
There were a total of 728 suicides across Scotland in 2016.
The new action plan has been brought in more than a year after the previous suicide prevention strategy, which covered the period 2013 to 2016.
The proposals, which are being consulted on at the moment, include commissioning NHS Health Scotland to “lead on the development of a new, world-leading, comprehensive mental health and suicide prevention training programme to replace and modernise the current suite of training programmes”.
The plan added: “We will work to create a culture where mental health and suicide prevention training is universally delivered with the same commitment as physical health emergency training across a wide range of services and organisations. “
As well as improved suicide prevention training, it sets out to make greater use of social media, with NHS24 developing a number of initiatives in this area.
Launching the new draft plan in Edinburgh, Ms Watt said: “Every life matters and everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention. “While the suicide rate in Scotland has fallen over the past decade, I want us to go further to prevent deaths. “As part of our proposals, we aim to produce a world-leading suicide prevention training programme for employers. “We need to create a culture across Scotland where workplaces deliver mental health and suicide prevention training with the same commitment as physical health emergency training such as CPR and first aid.”
Shirley Windsor, lead for public mental health at NHS Health Scotland, stressed the need to develop “more responsive services”.
She added: “The training programme, raising skills and building confidence in everyone, not just professionals, to spot and respond to people in distress, has huge potential to help prevent suicide in Scotland.”
Samaritans executive director James Jopling said: “Last year 728 people died by suicide in Scotland and it remains the leading cause of death for men under 50 across the UK. As such, the impact that suicide has across our communities is huge. “We urge people across Scotland to get involved and help shape the Scottish Government’s suicide prevention plans.”
The service has sparked a fall in the number of times police were forced to hold someone under the Mental Health Act
An emergency mental health hotline has been introduced in west London to provide on-call support for police on duty.
The 24-hour hotline will put officers in Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster in touch with ‘rapid response’ mental health professionals who can be deployed to help them.
Police will be able to access the service when they are on the beat in London and come across someone who may be suffering from a mental health episode.
A pilot of the scheme was launched in areas across the capital to help officers deal effectively and appropriately with call-outs about mental health sufferers – which make up a large number of 999 callouts.
Data has already shown that in the first two months of the service, the number of police imposing a Section 136 (of the Mental Health Act) dropped by almost 80 per cent.
In the pilot area, cases of Section 136 dropped from 138 per month to 29 per month within three months. In parts of north west London without the service, the number of Section 136 orders imposed rose slightly.
Officers are trained in detail about mental health and have the on-call service where they can speak with professionals and describe the symptoms or behaviour of the member of the public they are dealing with.
They are given advice by the specialist triage team, who can make a referral to the Mental Health Crisis Resolution Team or deploy immediate on-scene help from a member of the Rapid Response Team.
The service, launched by Camden and North West London (CNWL) trust is not the first of its kind in the capital but differs in the sense that, instead of having mental health specialists on the streets with beat officers, they are accessible any time over the phone.
Met mental health lead Superintendent Mark Lawrence said the issue “places a huge demand on police” and said officers attend mental health calls on average every 12 minutes.
“This collaborative approach to policing mental health will enable officers to provide a more informed and effective resolution, and signpost people in mental health crisis to the appropriate service,” he said.
Dr John Lowe, CNWL consultant, added; “By reaching across traditional boundaries in a supportive and constructive way … Street Triage shows how closer inter-professional working between Mental Health Services and the police can be of huge benefit to users, staff and services.”
He added that the advice received by officers has allowed them to consider alternatives to a section 136 – the Mental Health Act which allows police to hold members of the public.
“According to our preliminary data from the project, the use of section 136 has already been reduced across Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster which is great news,” Dr Lowe added.
The Single Point of Access Team already take calls from people in a mental health crisis, and organise mental health support such as making an urgent referral or calling a triage team who will head to the scene to intervene in person.