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 dad who lost his son to suicide has insisted more must be done to help those in crisis.
Phil Welsh, whose son Lee took his own life, has been campaigning for a 24/7 refuge centre for the past two years.
But as of yet, there is still no facility in place in Dundee – something Phil insists can’t go on.
People are suffering from mental health issues across the city on a daily basis, with Police Scotland stats revealing the force has dealt with dozens of incidents where people have contemplated taking their own life in the past three months.
There have been 60 incidents on the Tay Road Bridge alone over that period and Phil said more must be done to help those in need.
He said: “It’s very concerning that so many people get so desperate they find themselves contemplating suicide.
“We should be providing somewhere for people to turn to when they feel suicidal, so they don’t end up in that situation.
“Something needs to change so people having a mental health crisis can have immediate access to support.”
According to Superintendent Graeme Murdoch, based in Dundee, there are still too many people who think taking their own life is their only option.
When an incident is called in at the Tay Road Bridge, a full emergency operation is launched with police, the ambulance service, the Broughty Ferry lifeboats and the coastguard all called upon to assist.
He said: “The numbers are too high.
“In my opinion if one person goes to the bridge when they are desperate and feeling suicidal that is too high.
“Half of the 60 calls led to some form of police intervention because they were giving serious cause for concern. Nine of those people were on the wrong side of the barrier and three had to be rescued from the water.”
Supt Murdoch said that the police were usually the frontline when dealing with someone in this level of crisis.
To give the police negotiators the space and peace to talk to the person in difficulty they are often forced to close the bridge.
But Supt Murdoch shared the harsh reality of the issues dealt with by police dealing with the incidents – with some heckling police as well as those in need during tailbacks.
He said: “We have officers trained for this and they find themselves negotiating with the person in difficulty.
“Our priority is to save a life and if that means the bridge is closed then it will be.
“Officers often can’t approach the person too closely and with the traffic noise added to the weather on the bridge it can just be too noisy.
“Sadly and unbelievably we have also had instances of passers-by shouting to the person just to jump.”
She said: “We should be picking up on early signs and using interventions such as anxiety and depression management.
“Exercise and music therapy could be used more.
“Not every one needs medication for mental health.
“First of all we should be trying to use our own skills to de-escalate these feeling or thoughts, or having a nurse or support worker going through different coping strategies and promoting person-centred empowerment to give people hope.”
Five years on and no closer to diagnosis
Leanne, 37, from Menzieshill contemplated taking her own life but, through support from services and those around her, she managed to come out the other side.
At her lowest, it proved to be a conversation with a colleague which was the intervention she needed.
But Leanne, a civil servant, has admitted to being no further forward in getting the help she needs to get better.
She said: “I have been going back and forward to the doctor and to mental health centres in Dundee for the past five years.
“I’m still no nearer to having an official diagnosis of my condition.
“Four different professionals have given my possible condition from being bipolar to having ADHD or a borderline personality disorder.
“However, two weeks ago I left the doctor no further forward and I was definitely having suicidal thoughts.
“I felt suicidal, however I ended up speaking to my boss who was fantastic.
“If he hadn’t been there for me I could well have ended up on the bridge in a desperate bid to try to get the help I know I need.”
An NHS spokeswoman said: “Each suicide is a tragedy and the impact on those left behind lasts a lifetime.
“Anyone can become suicidal; the reasons can be different and very complex and it is not always due to mental illness.
“If people are feeling suicidal, the best thing to do is talk and tell someone how they are feeling. Speak to someone you can trust or call a helpline.
“If you’re worried that someone else is suicidal, ask them – asking someone directly about their feelings can help them.”
It said the key themes were patient access to mental health services, patient sense of safety, quality of care, organisational learning, leadership and governance.
Referring to risk management, the report said: “Patients report telling staff they were suicidal but the risk was not taken seriously until they made a serious attempt to take their own life.”
‘Violated and traumatised’
In relation to patient safety, the report noted: “Some patients report being frightened of certain staff on the wards who have a poor attitude to the patients in their care.
“Others mentioned that another patient had assaulted them whilst they were on the ward.”
The report said the use of restraint within inpatient facilities was of “great concern” to patients, who had experienced it or witnessed it taking place.
It said: “Patients feel violated and traumatised, particularly if they have personally suffered violent abuse in the past.”
It added that staff seemed unable to control the availability and use of illegal drugs on the wards in the inpatient facilities.
“Both patients and families report seeing drugs delivered, sold and taken within the Carseview Centre site,” the report said.
“Staff confirm this is a serious issue which is not being adequately addressed.
“There is a lack of support from management for frontline staff attempting to address this issue and it is having a detrimental effect on patient care and treatment regimes”.
‘Unexpected and concerning’
In a section on the Crisis Service, the report said that the Crisis team “struggles to respond to sudden surges in demand on the service.”
It said: “There are occasions when the length of time to wait to be seen is long and families supporting someone in crisis are advised to phone the police or NHS24, if they are worried.
“This advice is unexpected and concerning to carers coping with a crisis in a domestic situation.”
The report said the centralisation of the out-of-hours Crisis team to Carseview Centre has had a “detrimental effect on those patients in Angus and Perth & Kinross who are experiencing mental health crisis”.
It said: “There is a perception that whilst the Crisis service has expanded in recent months, the situation has worsened in terms of patients being assessed then not being offered any crisis intervention, or referred back to the GP.”
Inquiry chairman David Strang said: “The themes which have been identified will shape the next stage of the inquiry.
“Our final report will include conclusions and recommendations which will lead to the improvement of mental health services in Tayside.”
NHS Tayside chief executive Grant Archibald said: “We are taking on board all comments in the interim report, alongside the feedback we received from the Health and Social Care Alliance (the Alliance) published in their report in December 2018.
“The key themes which have been identified in both the Alliance report and in today’s interim report are recognised by the board and the mental health leadership team – and we are taking action on these.
“I also recognise and want to thank the many staff who are already working really hard to improve services and look forward to their continued support.
“It is clear that we have further work to do but since I came to Tayside, I have made mental health a top priority and I am confident we can learn lessons, strengthen our engagement with patients, service users, families and the public and make the right kinds of changes, at the right time, to transform our mental health services.”
He added: “We would like to thank everyone who has shared their experiences so far and we look forward to the independent inquiry’s final report and recommendations which will be a major influence on the future shape of mental health services in Tayside.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said an interim report into mental health services in Tayside will be published “imminently”.
Responding to questions from Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard about the inquiry, Ms Sturgeon said she would expect relatives who campaigned for the inquiry to be given advance copies of the interim report, which is expected to be published this month.
The inquiry was launched following a public campaign by families who blamed poor care at the Carseview Psychiatric Centre at Ninewells Hospital for a series of suicides.
The interim report will be published next week although it will be several months before the full inquiry report is completed.
Mr Leonard told the First Minister that some of the relatives whose campaigning led to the inquiry feel they have not been kept up-to-date with its progress and believe it is not “transparent”.
He said that when the inquiry was set up then health secretary Shona Robison said it should be seen as “a force for good” and asked if Ms Sturgeon believed this aspiration is being met.
Mr Sturgeon said it would be wrong for the Scottish Government to “pre-empt” the inquiry but said its findings would be scrutinised and any recommendations acted upon.
She added: “Of course we want to learn lessons and our sympathies are with the families who have experienced those losses.
“We established an independent inquiry in Tayside. That hasn’t yet reported. I hope it will report soon and it will be fully scrutinised by the government.”
Mr Leonard said Mandy McLaren, the mother of Dundee suicide victim Dale Thomson, has lost confidence in the inquiry.
He said: “She asked me to ask you directly if families will see an advance copy of the interim report before it is published.
“Will you listen to the voices of those families? Will you do what you can do to restore their confidence in this inquiry?”
Ms Sturgeon replied: “This inquiry is being led by David Strang. It is an independent inquiry.
“If the government was interfering in the conduct of that inquiry, I am sure Richard Leonard would be raising that in the chamber.
“I understand David Strang has met with family members. It would be full my expectation that an advance copy of the report would go to those directly affected.
“I will pass that specific point to David Strang but I would stress it is an independent inquiry.”
Earlier, Conservative MSP Bill Bowman pressed health secretary Jeane Freeman over plans for a 24-hour crisis centre in Dundee.
Councillor Ken Lynn, the the vice-chairman of Dundee Heath and Social Care Partnership, has pledged his “total commitment” to creating a centre in Dundee, but Ms Freeman the issue had not been raised with her or the minister for mental health, Claire Haughey.
Mr Bowman said later: “It was clear from the cabinet secretary’s answer that the SNP are disconnected from the challenges faced on the ground.
“There seems to be no plans for the new centre in Dundee, or for the government to help NHS Tayside create one.”
The parents of a young Dundee dad who took his own life have hit out at thieves who stole sentimental trinkets from their son’s grave.
Lee Welsh, 27, was found dead at his Peddie Street home in the city’s West End in August 2017 after suffering from depression.
His dad Phil and mum Lesley discovered the heartbreaking theft when they visited Lee’s grave at Birkhill Cemetery on Sunday.
Phil said: “Lesley had four little glass trinkets in the shape of diamonds hanging on the little fence that goes round the gravestone.
“They aren’t worth anything financially but they are significant to us as a family as the words ‘Shine on you crazy diamond’ from a Pink Floyd song are engraved on the gravestone.
“We know they aren’t worth any money but it has been really upsetting for us.
“When we realised they had been taken we were really hurt.”
Phil added: “Whoever took them probably doesn’t think too much about what they have done but I want them to realise that taking things from a grave can be desperately upsetting for those left behind and grieving.
“People should think more carefully about their actions and be aware of the hurt they can cause.”
Since Lee died, Phil and Lesley have been campaigning for a 24/7 crisis centre in Dundee to give immediate access to people having suicidal thoughts.
They have also organised various fundraising events for groups and centres that currently offer support.
The next event is a soup and pudding lunch to be held at Dundee West Church on May 25.
Money raised from the lunch will this year go to the Art Angel charity.
Lesley said: “Art Angel is a unique and inspired arts project run by and for people with experience of mental health difficulties in Dundee.
“It helps people work towards recovery and mental wellbeing.”
A similar event last year raised almost £1,000 for Dundee Association for Mental Health (DAMH).
The second Lee Welsh memorial football match is also planned for July 20.
It will be held at North End Park and this year the money raised will be donated to Art Angel on behalf of the Not in Vain for Lee charity.
As well as football, there will be other attractions including a bouncy castle, face and henna painting and a demonstration by Dundee Mods Scooter Club.
Last year’s match, organised by Lee’s childhood friend Steve Martin, raised more than £1,000 for DAMH.