Campaigners say services for suicidal people is not up to standard

Mental health campaigners are pushing for better treatment for suicidal people as a new television series exposing the reality airs.

In the BBC Scotland investigation, entitled Scotland’s Silent Deaths, experts reveal their concerns over what they see as a lack of adequate services in place to help those who are suicidal.

Despite Scotland’s reputation as the area of the UK with the highest suicide rate, with 781 instances in 2010, it is claimed that some police forces see no option but to lock individuals at immediate risk of suicide in cells overnight for their own safety.

The BBC programme was given access to Tayside Police records on attempted and threatened suicides in the area – and found up to 150 suicide-related incidents in a month. This is despite the average number of successful suicides in the same period being only four.

Kirsty Keay, the Scottish Association for Mental Health’s national programme manager for suicide prevention, said: “Suicide devastates Scotland’s communities and there is clearly a gap in the services that are available.

“Psychiatric and community mental health services do their best to help, as do the police. But we need to work together – the voluntary sector, police, NHS, Scottish Government and local authorities – to give people a place to turn to when they are desperate.“

NHS Ayrshire and Arran’s specialist mental health services manager, Carol Fisher, said: “There is a great need to change public attitudes and increase awareness and understanding about suicide as a major public health problem that is largely preventable.

“A major obstacle to helping prevent suicide is the stigma associated with and surrounding suicide. It can prevent us from speaking openly and freely about the problem and discussing what we can do. It can also lead to misunderstandings and intolerance which is a barrier to change.”

She added: “Our Crisis and Resolution Home Treatment Team provides out-of-hours care for people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. People can also find help from a range of national organisations. Helplines such as Breathing Space, Choose Life, Action on Depression, Touched by Suicide and the Samaritans all provide advice and support.”

BBC Scotland Investigates: Scotland’s Silent Deaths is on BBC One Scotland at 10.35pm.

The NHSAAA Crisis and Resolution Home Treatment Team can be accessed by a GP referral to the Community Mental Health Teams which are based in East, North and South Ayrshire and through NHS24.