A new suicide prevention initiative will be launched in Dundee after findings showed the city has the highest rate of people taking their own lives in Tayside and Fife.
Poverty and welfare reform have been cited as one of several contributing factors in the city, which is infamous for having one of the highest numbers of benefit sanctions in Scotland.
The Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan would bring the city council, NHS, emergency services and specialist mental health services more closely together to work on preventing deaths.
It will be under consultation until April and is expected to be endorsed by the Dundee Integration Joint Board in June.
An investigation carried out between 2013 and 2017 showed 131 people died by suicide in the city in that time.
The rate of 19 per 100,000 population was significantly higher than the Scottish average of 13.5.
Males in Dundee have the second highest mean rate of suicide in Scotland.
A report compiled by the Tayside Multi-Agency Review Group, set up in 2016 to investigate the issue, said: “Scotland continues to have a higher suicide rate than the rest of the UK mainland and there is a strong association between suicide and socio-economic deprivation.
“A number of cases have highlighted the impact of issues around benefits in potentially contributing to local suicide deaths.”
Concerns have also been raised about ambulance staff having no access to mental health records when dealing with emergencies, unlike the police.
Speaking at Tuesday’s Health and Social Care Partnership meeting, the committee’s chair Trudy McLeay said: “I was surprised that the ambulance service don’t have access to mental health records.
“It must be a very difficult situation, especially when dealing with an attempted suicide.”
Common factors identified in Tayside men and women who died by suicide included bereavement, a criminal history, harmful use of alcohol, adverse childhood experiences and physical health problems.
Among men, a significant number were found to have had a record of abuse perpetration, psychotic or organic brain conditions, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, a career history in the military and/or Eastern European ethnicity.
Meanwhile, a common factor specific to women was infertility.
A further report submitted to the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership raised concerns that there may not be enough funding to implement the new plan.
DWP spokesperson said: “Suicide is a highly complex issue and it’s wrong to make a link with welfare reforms.
“This report is over 300 pages long and mentions welfare reform in just one paragraph.”
A Tayside musician is helping beat the stigma of mental illness by rapping about his time in a Dundee psychiatric hospital.
Kieran Smart, who studied music production in Perth before being admitted to Carseview, posted a video to social media which detailed his battle against self-harm and hallucinations.
The 23-year-old mentions his feelings of isolation while struggling with his mental health, which led him to spend a total of four months in the unit over the past two years.
He said he hoped the video would encourage more people to seek help sooner, after revealing it took him five years to get treatment.
He said: “It’s an overview of what I was feeling at the time. Now I feel not much different but better – music definitely helps with that. It gives me an outlet – a way to put things down as I’m not really big on speaking to people and this is easier.
“I’ve been writing for ten years and when I came out of Carseview the second time that’s when I recorded my first song.
“I put this video online to help break down the stigma of mental illness. I want to bring awareness to that – I want people to know it’s all right to not be all right.
“It’s a constant reminder for me but I’d rather it helped someone – I hope it would. I’ve been dealing with this since 2012 and I didn’t seek any help until 2017 because I had the idea that being male I had to mask it.”
Mr Smart has also praised staff at the facility at a time when mental health services in Tayside have come under fire, with unit closures in Perthshire and Angus.
He said: “When I first went into Carseview I wanted out as soon as possible because I was in a locked ward but the treatment was really good and the staff were great – they were always willing to talk.”
A Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership chief has pledged his ‘total commitment’ to establishing a new 24-hour mental health crisis centre in the city.
Councillor Ken Lynn, vice chairman of the joint board, said he envisaged the hub would be separate from existing facilities such as Ninewells Hospital or Carseview, to be “more central, more in the community and staffed by mental health professionals”.
It comes after a commission set up to tackle poverty and deprivation in Dundee recommended the creation of a 24-hour drop-in service offering clinical, non-clinical, therapeutic and peer support.
The commission found people reaching crisis point outside normal working hours were unable to self-refer for support when they need it most and some campaigners have criticised policy makers for a perceived lack of action on the issue.
Councillor Lynn rejected any suggestion proposals have been “kicked into the long grass” and said he intended to speak to the new chairwoman of the integrated joint board, Trudy McLeay, about moving the project forward.
“There are a number of hoops we would need to go through before this comes to fruition,” he said.
“But I am very supportive of the idea – in fact, I don’t know anyone who is not.
“I have spoken with representatives of the mental health sub group of Dundee City Council and we agreed to set up an event to make a presentation to councillors. I expect that will happen over the next few weeks.
“I’m totally committed and willing to do whatever it takes to get the money for it, even if it means moving resources from other areas.”
A number of those pledging support also left personal messages outlining how such a facility would have helped them or a loved one in their time of need.
Ms Marra said: “There is an urgent need in Dundee for a mental health crisis centre where people can refer themselves and get support any time of day or night.
“There is widespread support for this type of service in the city and it was recently recommended by the city-wide poverty commission.
“When I called for a crisis centre for Dundee in parliament last year, the First Minister said she agreed that there should be a crisis centre in Dundee but I’m not aware of any progress on this so far.
“There is a crisis centre that serves people in Edinburgh. There is no good reason why there should not be the same level of service in Dundee.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We’re committed to ensuring that we have the right support available in our NHS and care services for those who need it.
“An independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside is currently ongoing and we will ensure its findings are shared across Scotland and help shape service delivery in Dundee.”
Teenagers have created a series of booklets and posters to help promote mental health across Dundee.
Pupils at the High School of Dundee worked with staff from the charity Feeling Strong.
Founded by Brook Marshall the charity aims to help young people in Dundee who have suffered a mental health challenge to reach their full potential.
This is achieved by delivering services co-produced by, and delivered by, young people.
Brook visited the school to help youngsters work on an art and design department project on health and well being.
The pupils created documents, booklets and posters examining and giving guidance on issues such as body image, bullying, stress and anxiety.
Art and design teacher Andrea Ross, who led the project, said: “Our goal was to create resources which would help young people to access engaging, yet practical advice about their mental health and well being.
“We were delighted to see our pupils approach this project with inspirational maturity.”
The work recently went on show at the school and a booklet featuring some of the pupils’ artwork is being sold to raise funds for the charity.
Brook said: “I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for young people to engage with the subject in a very empowering way.”
Copies of the booklet supporting the charity can be obtained for a minimum £5 donation from Andrea Ross.