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Probable deaths by suicide in Scotland down by 6% in a year, figures show

The number of probable deaths by suicide is the lowest since 2017 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
The number of probable deaths by suicide is the lowest since 2017 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The number of probable deaths by suicide in Scotland dropped by 6% between 2020 and 2021, figures show.

In 2021, the figure dropped to 753 from 805 – the second consecutive year where a reduction was seen and the lowest level since 2017 – according to statistics released by National Records of Scotland on Tuesday.

The majority of probable suicide deaths were men (565), compared to just 188 women during 2021.

Men remain three times more likely to die by probable suicide than women, according to the figures, with a rate of seven women per 100,000 dying by probable suicide compared to 21 men per 100,000.

The rate of probable suicide among those living in the most deprived areas of Scotland was also much higher than those in the least deprived areas.

According to the figures, 7.5 people per 100,000 in the most affluent areas of the country died by probable suicide in 2021, compared to 21.4 per 100,000 in the poorest areas.

Some 35.6 men per 100,000 in the most deprived areas died by probable suicide in 2021, compared to just 12 per 100,000 in the most affluent areas – both of which showed an increase from the previous year.

For women, 3.2 per 100,000 of those in the most affluent areas died by probable suicide, compared to 8.3 per 100,000 in the poorest areas.

The Scottish Government’s mental health minister, Kevin Stewart, described every death by suicide as a “tragedy for the loved ones left behind”, adding: “While the number of deaths has dropped in recent years, I remain committed to reducing suicide and providing support for those who are affected by this heartbreak.

“We provide annual funding of £300,000 to Public Health Scotland to provide support for local suicide prevention work which helps communities implement local suicide prevention action plans.

“Our ambition is to get everyone working together to prevent suicide which is why we have been engaging with those affected to publish a prevention strategy for Scotland next month.

“This will set out how the Government, partners and local communities can come together to help prevent future suicides.

“It is important that people know there is help available if they are feeling suicidal.

“Anyone in need of support should contact their GP or call the NHS 24 helpline.

“Support can also be found online, through NHS Inform, and on the Samaritans and Breathing Space websites.”

Danielle Rowley, the influencing manager at leading charity Samaritans Scotland and former Labour MP, said there was “still a huge amount of work to be done”.

“While we welcome the overall downward trend, particularly a significant reduction among females, we must continue to take action on the range of factors that may contribute to suicide risk.

“Those living in Scotland’s most deprived areas remain three times more likely to die by suicide than those in more affluent areas, and men continue to account for most deaths.

“This data, and Samaritans’ own research, suggests reaching out to men from lower income areas, who are at the highest risk of suicide, must be a major focus of preventing suicide in Scotland.

“Suicide is complex and there is no single reason why someone may take their own life.

“However, by ensuring there is a range of support available to those who are struggling – and working to address inequalities in our society – these numbers can be reduced further.

“We receive a call to Samaritans’ helpline every 10 seconds. It reminds us why we continue not only to be there 24/7 for anyone who needs a listening ear, but also to make real and lasting change to achieve our vision for a Scotland where fewer lives are lost to, and devastated by, suicide.”