Dave Barrie, service manager with Addaction, said the new strategy is being put in place following changes in the way people with an addiction to powerful opiates such as heroin are helped.
Previously, all those with heroin addictions would be referred to the NHS for treatment via Addaction.
But now users can go directly to the Tayside Substance Misuse Service, based in Constitution House.
Mr Barrie said the charity is now focusing more on people with problems with other drugs and those whose addiction to opiates isn’t at the stage of a long-term addiction.
He said: “Previously, everyone in Dundee who had an alcohol or drug problem would come through Addaction. That’s changed, and now people can go directly for NHS treatment.
“We are now looking at having a more preventative approach to substance misuse.
“We will be looking at helping people who are starting to have problems with drugs, or are recognising some concerns about their drug or alcohol intake.
“We are really looking to support people much earlier on in their alcohol or drug use.
“With the Dundee Drugs Commission being set up, the spotlight is on services in Dundee, so we really want to help people whose drug problems are less entrenched than the ones we previously helped, some of whom have been drug addicts for decades.
“It may be people with problems with other drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines. Often we find issues with these drugs can lead to problem with other drugs such as diazepam or heroin, as folk start to use these drugs to bring them down following a binge.
“We are starting to go into some hostels, chemists and GP surgeries in Dundee for drop-in sessions. If we can get into those venues, then we think we can access people sooner. What we’ve found is we can help people and point them in the direction of the support they need for other things.
“We previously had a presence in the Carseview Centre and it was received well. We realise people with mental health problems, housing problems and other health problems often have substance misuse problems and can be accessed at these places.”
Dave said another key focus would be supporting the family members of those who have drug or alcohol problems, as well as people who have lost a loved one to overdose.
He said: “We recognise that there is a huge isolation and stigma attached to drug addiction and being the parent or family member of someone who is an addict.
“If you have people around you to support you then it makes it so much easier to deal with.
“When you think of the year we have had for drugs deaths – every one of those people leaves behind extended families who are all left grieving.”
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?”
An investigation has been launched into the practice of doctors who cared for two Dundee suicide victims shortly before they died.
The General Medical Council (GMC) investigations centre on the care of Dale Thomson, 28, and David Ramsay, 50, who both took their own lives after visiting Dundee’s Carseview psychiatric centre.
Mr Thomson took his own life after discharging himself from the centre in 2015, while Mr Ramsay killed himself after being turned away from the same centre the following year.
A public outcry surrounding the deaths led to NHS Tayside launching an independent inquiry into its mental health services.
Now the GMC, which maintains the official register of medical practitioners in the UK, has launched its own investigation after “reviewing information in the press.”
The medical staff involved in the care have not yet been named, however, the family of Mr Ramsay received a letter from the organisation confirming the investigation, while family of Mr Thomson have also been contacted.
Gillian Murray, the niece of Mr Ramsay, said: “We absolutely welcome this investigation.
“We’ve been saying for the past two years it’s clear that the staff involved with David’s care failed him.
“Now there are various different investigations to determine exactly why he was failed and whether the staff involved are fit to practise.
“David lost his life through sheer negligence.”
Mr Ramsay, who had been experiencing psychotic episodes, was advised to “pull himself together” and to do “normal things” like take his dog for a walk.
After twice being turned away from Carseview, he was found dead at Templeton Woods four days later on October 9 2016.
Meanwhile, Mr Thomson turned to Carseview for help after barricading himself in his flat in January 2015.
He was allowed to leave the centre by doctors, however, and was found dead in his Charleston home just over two weeks later by mum Mandy McLaren.
A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the death of Mr Thomson, though finding his death “unavoidable”, did highlight shortcomings in NHS systems which were “relevant” to his death.
Ms McLaren also confirmed she had been called by the GMC and had instructed the body to speak with her lawyers.
She said: “They said they had been looking over newspaper clippings.
“It’s a good thing but I don’t hold out much hope that anything will get done.
“I would like to be proved wrong though. Something needs to change.”
A campaign by families claimed at least 10 suicides could have been prevented had better help been given at the mental health unit.
It is not known whether any other families in Tayside have been contacted.
A spokesperson for the GMC said the organisation would not comment on any ongoing investigations into individual doctors.
Every day in Scotland, an average of two people die from suicide.
It is the leading cause of death among people aged 20-34 in the UK – with the rate considerably higher among men.
Sadly, it’s an issue all too familiar to many in Dundee – so much so that it’s led to intense scrutiny of local mental health services and an inquiry being launched. All last week, events were held to highlight the issue for Suicide Prevention Week. As part of that, the Tele has spoken to four people who have attempted to take their own lives, about their experiences and how they came through them.
They’re all members of the Blue Wings group, set up in Dundee by Robbie Russell after his frustration grew at the “underfunded” mental health services on offer in Tayside.
The group previously led calls for patrols to be introduced to the Tay Road Bridge, following a number of incidents involving people contemplating suicide or taking their lives on the crossing.
Dave Johnston, 43, from Claverhouse, became aware of suicide in a previous workplace.
He said: “Part of my day-to-day work involves taxying when my other operation is out of season so I quite regularly meet people in the taxis who experience mental health problems and suicidal tendencies. My own personal belief is that people are let down by the system.
“Right now if someone goes up to Carseview, they’ll be turned away on the vast majority of occasions without any treatment at all.”
Although the issue is common throughout Tayside, Dave said he has seen people around him being afraid to admit their dark thoughts to the authorities, calling for more effort to bring understanding to the system.
Dave said: “I’ve got experience from speaking to somebody very recently who had attempted their own life and were taken to Carseview.
“They were taken overnight and their only experience the next morning was that a police surgeon spoke to them and asked if they still felt suicidal. Nobody in their right mind would say yes because they don’t want to be kept in police custody and they were released that morning.”
He said including people who have experienced suicide themselves is needed in the system.
He said: “The folk that deal with these issues day in and day out may have ideas about it but perhaps the best people to talk to them and give them advice are the people that are suffering from the problems themselves.
“We still live in a very macho environment where it’s seen as a weakness to speak about these types of things. It’s not a weakness, it’s an illness.”
Robbie Russell, 28, from Arbroath, said he became angry and lonely during his teenage years, eventually attempting suicide at age 16 for the first time.
He said: “I was fine when I was younger, but when I got to my teenage years, I was quite angry.
“I was seen as a bad kid.
“I was never recognised as someone with mental health issues. It followed me into my late teens – I started getting arrested and turned to drugs as a shield to get out of it but it didn’t work.”
Robbie said he struggled to open up about the way he was feeling.
He added: “It was instilled into me about pride. You’re a man, you’re not really supposed to have feelings.
“That’s not the case – we’re all human and everyone feels an emotion and everyone should be allowed to express it.
“The first person I told was my mum. She’s always been my rock, I have always been a bit of a mummy’s boy. She has talked me out of a lot of situations.”
At his most vulnerable, Robbie started hiding under his bed and felt like he was not being taken seriously.
“I was let down by the system. Back then, there was far too much ignorance – everyone was just playing you off like you’re an attention-seeker,” he said.
Robbie later founded the Blue Wings group to help others who were feeling suicidal with the hope of developing the Facebook group into a charity.
“I started getting a lot better and opening up a lot more than I used to,” he said.
“I started accepting things a lot more.”
Aged 13, Tina Grant, from Douglas, tried to take her own life for the first time. She said she would do anything to get the pain she was feeling out of her head.
Tina said: “I felt dead for such a long time. I tried to do pills, slit my wrists, drink, everything.
“I didn’t know how to deal with it all so I thought that was the only way to do it.
“When you’re in a dark place and have so many bad things going on in your life, you just want to escape it.”
Tina, now 35, went through her suicide attempts for two years before telling her mum.
She said: “I hid it from my mum and stepdad for a long time and when they actually saw the razor on my wrists, that is when they got the help for me when I was about 15.
“I never really had anyone to talk to and speaking to someone is such a helpful tool.”
Although Tina admits she has not fully recovered from feelings of suicide, she is able to face the day more easily after opening up to other people.
She said: “I still deal with it now but I’m dealing with it a lot better because instead of turning to drink, I talk to my friends and family and that makes me feel so much better.
“It was like a weight had been lifted off me and I felt like a new person.
“I felt happier, freer and alive.”
Now, Tina is looking to get into care work and help others who are feeling suicidal.
She said: “If nobody knows of the groups available to you, go online and talk to people – it’s the best thing to do. Nobody is alone.”
Gavin Elliot, 20, from Broughty Ferry, has been on the edge of the Tay Road Bridge three times and still feels like he has not overcome his suicidal thoughts.
He said: “I was in care since I was about seven. Life was tough from the beginning.
“I tried multiple times to kill myself – whether it was sticking scissors to my throat, jumping off the bridge, trying to hang myself, trying to suffocate myself.
“Anything that I could try, I tried it because I thought the only way out was to end myself.”
He added: “Last time I tried was two years ago when my father passed away.
“I was at the edge of the Tay Road Bridge on the other side of the barrier when police came and they pulled me away.”
Gavin said he kept himself hidden from the world and only started talking to others when his support workers noticed.
He said: “Every day I’d wake up in the morning and think, why? What’s the point in me waking up when it is the same old routine every day? I would spend months on end in my house alone with no visitors – no physical contact, nothing. I sat alone and blocked everyone out.”
After ending up on the bridge, he was taken to Dundee’s Carseview mental health facility but said he did not receive much support.
“People at Carseview would look at me, say I was OK and send me home without any treatment whatsoever,” he claimed.
To get his life back on track, Gavin said he turned to BMXing which has helped him through his difficulties.
Changes to mental health services in Tayside could become the lasting legacy of those who have taken their own lives across the region, it has been claimed.
The independent inquiry into how NHS services are provided began taking submissions from members of the public last week.
Chairman David Strang said he hoped testimony – both positive and negative – would help improve treatment and support throughout the country.
The inquiry was ordered after a public campaign by families who blamed poor care at the Carseview Psychiatric Centre at Ninewells Hospital for a series of suicides.
Gillian Murray, whose uncle David Ramsay took his own life after being turned away by Carseview, has been at the forefront of the campaign for the inquiry and said it could be a chance for “real change”.
And she said it was vital that people with experiences of mental health services “stand up and be counted”.
She said: “This crisis has been on-going for over a decade and NHS Tayside have been aware of the failings but done nothing.
“If they were genuinely committed to change; it wouldn’t have taken for my uncle to lose his life and for me to campaign through to parliament, first at First Minister’s
Questions then the debate to get an inquiry.
“The same issues have been raised time and time again about NHS Tayside mental health.
No lessons have ever been learnt thus far. Lives have been lost and others shattered – this is a crisis that will have ripple effects felt down the years.”
Ms Murray said she remained angry about the lack of treatment given to her uncle.
“I will never forgive NHS Tayside, nor forget. I can only hope that real change happens as this is a living hell and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” she said.
“Each and every person needs to stand up and be counted by coming forward with testimonies and evidence to illustrate the scale of this crisis.
“Change needs to happen and those who have lost their lives should never be forgotten – this is their legacy.
“They may have been failed but their preventable deaths may prevent others suffering the same fate.”
Evidence can be submitted to the inquiry by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to Independent Inquiry, 15/16 Springfield, Dundee, DD1 4JE.
Scotland still has the worst suicide rate in Britain – despite long-term improvements from a record high.
Official figures yesterday revealed 13.9 deaths for every 100,000 people in Scotland last year, compared with 9.2 in England.
The high level of suicide was published a month after the Scottish Government set a new target for reducing the rate by 20 per cent by 2022.
The SNP had been under pressure to tackle the country’s suicide rates after a previous strategy lapsed.
Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The high rate of suicides in Scotland, especially among young men, is devastating. The SNP dawdled for 586 days before introducing a suicide prevention strategy after the last one expired. That means for 2017 there was no strategy. That is unforgivable.
“The Government must make improving mental health services and access to them a top priority.”
In Scotland, the rate has fallen from 17.5 deaths for every 100,000 people when records began in 1981. The rates in Wales fluctuated from year to year but experts said there has been no apparent downward trend over time. Northern Ireland, where figures have been the worst in the UK, was not included in the latest Office for National Statistics report.
The figures differ from earlier Scottish official figures, which suggested a rate of 12.5 for 2017, because of a different approach to ages and definitions.The Samaritans charity warned in May that the Scottish Government had not treated suicide as top priority.
Last month, Glasgow North Labour MP Paul Sweeney warned suicide is a “ticking time bomb” in the forces as the Daily Record revealed Ryan Smith had become the sixth soldier to take his own life in just over a week.