Research to inform suicide prevention

Suicide prevention is a key priority for The Highland Council. Members have agreed today, to take forward a piece of research with partners including NHS Highland and Police Scotland, to better understand the current evidence base and experience of suicide in Highland. This is with a view to developing a new preventative model of intervention.

Suicide can affect any individual, any family and any community. All organisations, both public and voluntary, have a role to play in raising awareness and understanding of suicide and taking a collaborative approach to prevention is critical.

Suicide not only affects the immediate family and friends of an individual but the wider community. The effects are devastating and cannot be underestimated.

The rates of suicide or attempted suicide in Highland have traditionally been higher than the national average. Suicide is recognised as a priority both locally and nationally and a council report outlines the approach taken. There has been a partnership approach to suicide prevention in Highland over many years. This includes joint training, awareness raising and work with communities.

Whilst the Choose Life partnership group continues to prioritise suicide prevention and wider approaches to promoting resilience and wellbeing through its work, it is recognised that a new collaborative approach to suicide prevention is required in Highland in order to address the scale of the current challenge.

It is proposed to undertake a needs assessment focused on suicide prevention. Whilst much is already known about suicide and the frequency and risk factors associated with suicide, a needs assessment would provide an opportunity to assess current evidence across partner data sources and review successful intervention activity related to suicide prevention both nationally and internationally. This would include gathering evidence from key third sector support groups and communities impacted by suicide. NHS Highland and Police Scotland both have data analyst time to contribute to this piece of work and the Council has agreed to allocate up to £15,000 from the Change Fund to support this research.

Early intervention approaches such as these are crucial to taking a more preventative approach to how we support communities and our workforces. This work will inform the development of a prevention model for Highland, including new approaches to suicide prevention.

Leader of the Council, Margaret Davidson said: “Suicide is a tragic end of a life and has a devastating effect on everyone connected with that person. We need to understand what lies behind the stark facts to better plan what we can do to prevent suicide and provide the right support for anyone considering such a desperate and final path.”



There has been a multi-agency approach to training on suicide prevention over many years and the Council provides a range of training and materials which support suicide prevention and awareness raising. This includes Suicide Awareness toolbox talks; Post-intervention sessions with community and workplace groups affected by Suicide; Mental Health representatives in Council workplaces; a Mental Health and Wellbeing Toolkit; promotion of resources; The Primary Mental Health Worker service provide various tailored training to schools regarding mental health including: Change, Loss and bereavement (taking account of the risks if a suicide happens in a community and how to support) and Seasons for Growth (a programme to support young people who have experienced the loss of someone because of suicide.)Work is led through a multi-agency Choose Life Partnership group. Membership includes: NHS Highland; Highland Council; Police Scotland; Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, Highland Drug and Alcohol Partnership; and third sector organisations (HTSI, HUG, Samaritans, Support in Mind, the Hive).

In 2018, the Community Planning Board agreed that a new approach was required with regards suicide prevention in response to partnership intelligence . The ‘breakthrough’ achievement for the board for 2018 focused on ways of raising awareness of suicide across agencies and communities. Two strands of activity were developed:

· Suicide intervention Prevention Programme (SIPP) training: in recognition that everyone can have a role to play in preventing suicide, the SIPP programme of training is aimed at all staff groups to enable participants to o recognise a person at risk of suicide to ask about suicide, including the ability to display listening and questioning skills o be aware of the impact of attitudes on suicide, and to develop risk management skills to keep a person safe.

A SIPP training session for Highland Council elected members has been scheduled for 26 September 2019.

· Suicide Prevention App: The app aims to provide awareness about suicide and preventative information to support people feeling suicidal or family and friends to support individuals. Based upon positive experience of use of the app in Tayside and Aberdeenshire, it was agreed to roll out the app in Highland.

The focus of the app is to keep someone safe when feeling distressed or suicidal. It includes a prevent suicide safety plan element which can be completed with the help of a trained listener or family/friend and includes sources of support in situations where people are feeling distressed or suicidal.

There is also guidance on what members of the public can do to help someone who is feeling suicidal. The app can be downloaded at the following links:

iTunes Store:

Google Play Store:



27 Jun 2019
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