Statistics released by the Government reveal an increase in the number of under 18s taking their own lives, fuelling calls for bold action.
Labour MSP Monica Lennon: “It is tragic and deeply worrying that so many children and young people have ended their lives in Scotland in recent years. Specialist youth mental health services are badly under-resourced.”
The NHS recently revealed 784 probable suicides in 2018 – a 15% rise compared to the previous years.
In the same twelve month period, suicides among those in the 15-24 age category soared by 50%.
However, these were one year figures and new data published this week drills down even further.
In 2014, ten under 18s completed suicide, but the total has steadily climbed and reached 26 in 2018 – a five year high.
The same information shows a near 25% rise between 2014 and 2018 in suicide among 18-24 year olds, from 59 to 75.
It comes after a Glasgow University study found that one in nine young people in Scotland have attempted suicide and one is six has self-harmed.
In June, it also emerged that the number of young people waiting more than a year for a specialist mental health service had more than trebled within 12 monthS.
Nearly 120 children and young people waited more than 53 weeks to be seen in the first three months of 2019.
Lennon added: “SNP Ministers have been warned repeatedly that vulnerable young people are falling through the cracks.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s government has made good commitments on mental health and suicide prevention; however, warm words are meaningless if education, youth services and the NHS are not getting enough investment.”
Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone said: “It’s absolutely distressing to see suicide among young people at its highest level in five years. Each of these deaths has had a devastating impact on others and the wider community.
“For all the rhetoric on this, we still haven’t shifted the conversation enough onto prevention. The figures on self-harm should act as a warning sign, and we clearly need more early interventions, which would also reduce the pressure on acute services too.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It’s heartbreaking when anyone takes their own life.
“We are working tirelessly with partners to improve mental health services for young people, including those who have considered suicide or been bereaved by it. It is an area that the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group is focusing on and we are working with COSLA to implement their recommendations.
“We are developing new community wellbeing support services, which will initially be for five to 25 year olds.“Actions to improve peer support in schools and teacher training are being worked on, along with 24/7 crisis support for children and young people and their families.“We are also investing in mental health support for students. That will see over 80 additional counsellors in further and higher education over next four years, with £20 million investment.”
A WEST of Scotland MSP has called for improved access to mental health services, particularly among young people
To mark World Mental Health Day last week, Labour’s Mary Fee lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament calling for greater support for people who need help with their mental health.
Ms Fee’s motion says every individual who experiences poor mental health should have access to well-funded and adequately resourced support services within their local communities.
It is estimated that one in four people in Scotland suffer from poor mental health.
This year’s annual theme for World Mental Health Day, that took place on October 10, is young people.
Research conducted by Stonewall Scotland in 2017 found that 58 per cent of lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils and 96 percent of transgender pupils have deliberately harmed themselves.
Ms Fee said: “It is important that politicians, public servants and public bodies help to raise the profile of mental health.
“I believe that in order to break the stigma around mental health we must widen the conversation and deepen our knowledge and understanding of the range of mental health issues that people may experience throughout their lives.
“I am unequivocal in my belief that mental health should be treated with the same priority as physical health.
“It is a scandal that nearly one-third of young people are waiting longer than 18 weeks for vital mental health treatment. It is simply unacceptable.”
In marking the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Scottish Labour outlined a 10-point plan in which they pledged to provide access to a mental health counsellor for every school pupil in Scotland and improve the access to crisis mental health services.
The Scottish Government has since promised to invest in extra mental health services in schools, though Ms Fee warned that any dilution of the pledge will cause greater difficulties for children and young people accessing much needed treatment and support.
Clydebank MSP Gil Paterson added:“Most families will have known of someone with a mental health problem who has kept it hidden.
“The Scottish Government have done a lot of work on raising awareness of mental health and tackling the stigma associated with it.
“This work has resulted in a lot more people coming forward for treatment and the Government recognises that this puts added demands on the service, which is why the SNP Government has allocated an extra £250 million for mental health services, which includes £60m for schools to support 350 counsellors and 250 extra school nurses so that every secondary school will have a counselling service.
“I have asked a series of questions at the parliament about exactly what has been done to support mental health services in the past and the Post will be first to know when I get the answers.”
TWO women bereaved by suicide have forged a bond as they fight for changes to health services to better protect vulnerable patients.
Karen McKeown and Gillian Murray met after the Sunday Post told how Karen’s partner took his own life despite repeatedly asking for help.
Luke Henderson died on December 29, 2017 after eight attempts to get help from NHS Lanarkshire in less than a week.
Gillian Murray’s uncle David Ramsay also took his own life two years ago today, after he was told to go for a walk and pull himself together by medical staff at NHS Tayside.
He had been rejected for treatment twice at the psychiatric unit at Ninewells hospital in Dundee, where an inquiry is under way into a series of serious concerns. Both Luke and David’s cases were raised in the Scottish Parliament by MSPs, and Karen met the mental health minister Clare Haughey on Thursday, although says she left feeling disappointed.
The mum-of-two said: “I appreciate that the minister listened to me, but that is really all she did. I don’t want sympathy, I want action, answers. Smiling and nodding your head just isn’t good enough.”
Karen was joined by MSP Monica Lennon during the 30-minute session.
The MSP has vowed to continue to push for answers on Luke’s case and both Karen, from Motherwell, and Gillian will campaign to demand a national inquiry to help establish stronger safeguards for vulnerable, potentially suicidal patients.
Karen and Gillian think the Tayside inquiry should be extended to cover the whole of Scotland.
Karen said: “This isn’t just happening in one place. Gillian and I are covered by two health boards and very similar problems happened with our relatives.”
Gillian added: “I know there are problems happening all over Scotland, that’s why we want an inquiry nationally.”
The Scottish Government said: “The tragic death of Ms McKeown’s partner is currently under investigation by NHS Lanarkshire. A key action in our new suicide prevention plan is to ensure we learn from every death by suicide and ensure lessons are acted on.”
Since I spoke out about what happened to Luke, I couldn’t believe the number of people who sent me messages saying they had similar experiences. One of them was Gillian, and her uncle David’s case was just so similar to Luke’s.
It looked as if he was experiencing psychosis, the same as Luke was.
The whole family didn’t seem to be believed by doctors, who said David was showing no signs of suicidal ideation. That is the exact same thing they said about Luke.
They told me Luke was ‘forward planning’ because he was saying he was looking forward to Christmas – two days away.”
People are dying, and it can’t keep happening. Karen has been through what nobody should have to.
Her partner killed himself in their home, even though she tried to get him help. Their children have to grow up without a dad. Nobody should have to suffer like this, and Luke should never have suffered either. He should have been given help, just like David should have been.
How many more people have to live like this, or die before the NHS will sit up and listen?”
After just two years in the job a Scots nurse will this month quit her hospital post because she says staff “are on their knees”
Susan, a mum in her 40s, can no longer cope with the pressure-cooker atmosphere in wards where mentally ill patients are placed alongside the terminally ill receiving palliative care.
She is sick of working excessive hours to help plug the gaps, sick of being verbally abused and sick of having to dodge
punches and flying objects from patients who should be in mental health wards.
Susan – not her real name – said: “I had got to the point where I was given so much responsibility as a junior nurse and I felt it was too unsafe so I have decided enough is enough.
“We are getting a lot of patients in acute general wards who are unsuitable. They are more suited to psychiatric wards but the trouble is they have cut beds.
“I have been punched and pushed about and you get verbal aggression towards you. I was punched when I hadn’t long started.
“They throw anything that is at hand. They pick up chairs and try to throw them. When I was last on shift, there were seven out of 24 patients on my ward with mental health issues, two of them violent.”
She said clinical support workers are assigned to violent patients but if their condition gets too bad, a mental health nurse has to be brought in – usually from an agency – costing up to £2000 per patient per day.
She claimed some mental health patients are in general wards for ages waiting for appropriate places.
She said: “On my last shift, we had three who had been there from three months to a year. They are medically fit but can’t just be discharged.
“They are alongside palliative patients, who are not getting the dignity, peace and quiet to die in peace. The nurses and doctors try their best to accommodate everybody but the NHSis in crisis.”
And while she remains “passionate” about the work she does, Susan can no longer handle the responsibilities.
She has witnessed mistakes made with medication because of the inexperience of newly qualified staff.
She said: “I have seen medication errors being made with drugs you have to sign out, like morphine-based ones or stronger analgesia.
“If it’s two new nurses working on shift together, which shouldn’t happen but it does, they don’t have the experience to know the differences between quick acting and long acting drugs and it is very easy to get them mixed up. Some mistakes have been quite serious but they have managed to get to them in time.”
But she said drug runs are constantly interrupted.
She said: “We used to wear a red tabard which said, ‘Do not disturb – drug round in progress’ but they took them away because the tabards weren’t getting washed so there were infection control concerns.
“Now there is nothing in place to say to a family member, ‘Please don’t interrupt this nurse doing her drug rounds’.”
Instead of working to an NHS contract, Susan will resign this month and take on nurse bank work where she will be able to pick her hours, won’t have to do overtime and will not be put in charge of a ward.
Susan, who works on a general medical ward, said after qualifying there wasn’t much support for new nurses. She added: “I was basically put in on my first shift, handed my keys and that was it. It was a case of sink or swim. I was lucky I was able to keep my head above water but there is an awful lot of pressure.
“The other nurses I worked alongside were absolutely amazing but they don’t have time to help newly qualified nurses so it was a struggle.”
There’s a new batch of nurses coming into hospitals soon and some will go where there are shortages.
One ward is to get five new nurses. But Susan said: “To me that is a safety issue because they don’t have the skill mix to put on the rota – where there are more skilled nurses working alongside the junior nurses to keep them right.
“Safety is a massive thing because a lot of nurses are leaving and just doing bank work and a lot of nurses are off with stress and anxiety.” Susan has had to make formal reports when she felt there were not enough staff to run the ward safely.
She said: “My ward has 24 patients. We have three staff nurses, that’s eight patients each to be responsible for, but it goes down to two at night so you have 12 patients each.
“But even eight patients is too much for the nurse in charge with all her other duties. We have to rely so heavily on clinical support workers. They see the patients more than the nurses do. It is soul destroying.”
Staff shortages are so great that nurses are encouraged to do extra hours as bank nurses to make up the shortfall. Susan explained: “We can work 40 hours a week on the bank and 37.5 hours on the ward so we can work up to 77 hours a week.
“We are not forced to do bank shifts but we are made to feel guilty if we don’t because you don’t want to let your colleagues down. You are shattered. But sometimes you have to take a step back and say, ‘I’m done’, you physically can’t do any more.”
She added: “Lots of nurses who qualified at the same time as me have already left or are planning to quit to go on bank. For me the pressure was so bad I had to quit for my own sanity.”
Theresa Fyffe, Royal College of Nursing Scotland director, said: “Sadly, this echoes what I hear from frontline nursing staff across Scotland.”
Labour’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “We have a workforce crisis in our NHS. Unless we have adequate staffing more and more of our hard-working staff will walk away.”
Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton called Susan’s revelations “desperately troubling”.
He said: “We have long known about the crisis in our workforce but the depth of that crisis is laid bare in these revelations.”
Frances Dodd, NHS Lanarkshire acute divisional nurse director, insisted: “The safety of staff and patients is of paramount importance. We have mandatory training for appropriate staff to enable them to manage challenging situations.
“Staff who work extra shifts through the staff bank, do so on a voluntary basis.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said they recognised “pressures in our nursing workforce” and said while there has been an increase of almost six per cent in the number of qualified nurses, they were determined to “go further to ensure a sustainable nursing workforce long into the future.”
MEDICS failed to help a suicidal man who contacted health services eight times in six days before he died, his partner has claimed.
Luke Henderson’s girlfriend Karen McKeown is now calling for an urgent review of mental health support services for men in Scotland.
Karen tried to get help for Luke almost every day in the week before his death.
Despite phoning NHS24, going to A&E, contacting GPs and other community services on eight different occasions, the couple were either turned away, referred elsewhere or told that Luke showed no signs of mental health problems.
NHS Lanarkshire’s initial review said their staff had followed procedure and “consistently did not find any evidence” that Luke wanted to take his own life. However, they have now launched a fresh investigation.
Luke spoke to at least 11 different NHS employees between December 22 and December 28 last year. Karen found him hanging in the home they shared with their two children on December 29.
The 30-year-old’s calls for better men’s mental health services has been backed by her MSP, Monica Lennon, who has urged NHS bosses to further investigate.
Karen knew something was wrong with Luke when he started saying colleagues at his construction job were spying on and filming him, putting videos on the internet and laughing at him.
He had stopped sleeping, said he could hear voices in his head and could see things which weren’t there.
Karen, from Motherwell, said: “If they had done their jobs as medical professionals, the way I did mine as his partner and mother of his children, I believe Luke would still be here. My children would still have their dad.
“They failed him. I felt like he was planning to take his own life.
“There were loads of warning signs – he was asking my cousin to look after me if anything happened to him, he was telling me how much he loved me and kept saying sorry for things.
“I told doctors this, but they wouldn’t listen.”
In a review conducted by NHS Lanarkshire, officials ruled that they had followed procedures and their staff found no signs of mental illness, nor believed Luke was at risk of suicide.
However, medical notes from December 23, seen by The Sunday Post, show some staff who first saw Luke at Wishaw General A&E thought he was at risk of harming himself and that he was hallucinating.
They recorded in their notes that Luke was “hearing voices in head…feels wants to kill self”, “experiencing delusions” and was “an immediate risk to himself”.
When he first went to the emergency unit, he was categorised as a high-risk patient, but less than two hours later after being seen by a nurse, it was ruled that he showed no signs of having a “depressive illness or psychotic disturbance”.Medical staff decided that, because Luke said he was looking forward to Christmas, he was making plans for the future and was not suicidal.
Karen said: “Christmas was less than two days away by that point, it didn’t mean he was ‘forward planning’ as they said.
“I kept telling them he wasn’t making any plans after Christmas.
“On Christmas Eve I had to take him to see a psychiatric nurse, but they wouldn’t do anything. They told us to go to an addiction service, which re-opened on the 28th.”
Toxicology reports showed there were no traces of alcohol or drugs in Luke’s body when he died. He had suffered addiction issues in the past.
In 2011, Luke attempted to take his own life and in 2015 admitted himself into hospital as he was hearing voices.
After being an in-patient for a week, he was given medication to help him.
Karen said: “We got through Christmas Day and Luke made it all about us, and the four of us being together. That day he managed to sleep for the first time in a long while. He fell asleep on the couch but he was still not acting normally.”
Again, on December 27, the couple, along with some of Luke’s family members, went back to A&E after he continued to say he could hear voices and was seeing dogs in his house.
She said: “The staff didn’t speak to me or Luke’s family at all. They just spoke to Luke, and said nothing was wrong and he wasn’t showing signs of being mentally unwell.
“The next day I took him to the addiction services they told us about, but it was just a form-filling exercise and they didn’t give us any help.
“They said we would have to wait for someone to get in touch at a later date.”
On the day before his death, Karen took Luke to two GPs to try to get him an urgent appointment, before taking him to her own doctor and registering him there.
The couple were told an appointment was available that afternoon, but when they returned a second receptionist said there had been a mistake and they were sent home.
That night, Karen woke to her eight-year-old son, also named Luke, crying. She saw that her partner was not in bed and when she went to her son’s room she discovered he was awake.
Karen said: “I asked him why he was awake and he said that daddy had come in to say goodnight. That’s when I went downstairs and saw Luke’s body. I just started screaming.”
Iain Mackenzie, acting general manager for mental health services, said: “We are aware of this tragic matter and undertook a review in line with Health Improvement Scotland guidelines, which aims to identify any learning points.
“Members of our patient affairs team have also subsequently met with Ms McKeown with a view to further investigate the issues raised by her, and the team is also liaising with the other services involved.
“The investigation is still ongoing and, once complete, we will share the findings with Ms McKeown.”
Vulnerable Scots falling through net
In the last five years, more than 2,600 men have taken their own lives in Scotland, with more than 500 dying last year.
MSP Monica Lennon says too many people dealing with mental health problems, alcohol or drug issues are falling through the net, and is continuing to call for an investigation into why Luke was failed.
She said: “Luke’s tragic death is a painful loss to his family and Karen is one of the bravest people I have met. Asking for help should guarantee access to medical treatment but when it comes to addiction and mental health, vulnerable people too often are left to fall through the cracks.
“Nothing will bring Luke back but Karen is courageously drawing on her family’s experience to prevent others having doors closed in their faces. Karen continues to have my full support.
“Vulnerable people are being failed because people with lived experience are not being listened to.”
Workers at University Hospital Wishaw are putting the focus on the rights of patients admitted to hospital due to mental ill health.
Colleagues in ward one at the hospital have been piloting the Rights in Mind pathway, designed to help staff in mental health services ensure that patients know their rights and can access them.
Senior charge nurse Frances Smillie, who appears in a short video made by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland to raise awareness about Rights in Mind, said staff were enthusiastic about the guidance
The pathway was developed by the Commission and other experts, including people with experience of mental ill health. It highlights various issues with human rights in mental health care settings, putting legislation into context.
For example, voluntary patients are sometimes unaware they could leave a ward or refuse treatment and patients who are detained have additional rights, such as being told how long they are detained for and whether they can appeal against their detention.
Frances said: “When I started as a nurse it was about what we did to patients, such as detaining them and deciding their care plans.
“Now it’s more about what patients want and their rights, so it’s changing mindsets.
“The patients’ rights pathway is going to help immensely as it makes healthcare staff more aware of the rights of the people we care for. If patients are informed of their rights they are less anxious and emotional and feel empowered about their treatment.”
Frances explained a key aspect is the use of an ‘advance statement’ – a document written by a patient, when they are well, to say what treatment or care they would like, or would not like, if they get ill again. Anyone who makes decisions about their treatment, like doctors or a tribunal, can then read their advance statement and consider their wishes.
The ward ran a project to promote awareness of the statements and succeeded in ensuring nearly 96 per cent of patients knew they could write one if they wished.
Frances said: “We now have a weekly session about advance statements, led by nurses, patients and peers.
“Lots of patients didn’t realise they could have this input in deciding their treatment and many use them to list the things that have helped them in the past or what they don’t want, such as anti-psychotic medication they’ve had a bad experience with.
“We have a commitment to ‘person-centred’ care and this is a great example of that.
“Patients feel their personal concerns are being listened to and that means a lot to me and my colleagues.”
Kate Fearnley, executive director (engagement and participation) at the Mental Welfare Commission, said: “Rights in Mind can make a practical and positive difference to patients.
“We are delighted that NHS Lanarkshire is promoting it more widely amongst staff.
“Frances and the team at University Hospital Wishaw worked closely with us to create this guidance and they are already proof that it works.”
The Rights in Mind booklet and videos, including the one featuring Frances, are available at www.mwcscot.org.uk/rights-in-mind.