Niece of Dundee suicide victim says delays to prevention strategy will cost more lives

David Ramsay
David Ramsay

More lives will be lost because of “ridiculous” delays to a new training programme in the Scottish Government’s  suicide prevention strategy, says a Dundee campaigner.

Minsters unveiled their long-waited plan to reduce the number of the tragedies by 20% within four years on Thursday.

One scheme is for the SNP administration to fund improved mental health and suicide training by spring next year.

Gillian Murray, who lost her uncle to suicide in Dundee, said that target date will be too late for many.

“Refreshed suicide prevention training by May 2019 is ridiculous,” Ms Murray said.

“The suicide strategy is already two years late. How many have died and how many will still die as a result of this delay?”

She also criticised claims in the report there has been “real progress” in tackling suicide, with figures published this summer showing 32 people killed themselves in Dundee alone last year.

She said: “The rate of deaths by suicide has increased by 61% in Tayside. How on earth can this be classified as progress?”

However, she welcomed £3 million of extra funding for suicide prevention and strategies to break down stigma and support those who have been bereaved.

Ms Murray’s uncle David Ramsay was found dead at Templeton Woods in October 2016 following a mental breakdown. He had been rejected twice for treatment by NHS Tayside.

An independent inquiry is being held into suicides connected with the Carseview Centre and wider mental health services in Tayside.

The Scottish Government has been criticised for delays in publishing the strategy, which comes nearly two years after the previous one expired.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Lib Dem MSP, said that delay is unforgivable,  but welcomed the strategy as a chance to be a “success and save lives”.

Scotland will have a dedicated team called the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group to implement 10 new measures to cut the number of the tragedies.

It will be chaired by Rose Fitzpatrick, the recently-retired former deputy chief constable of Police Scotland.

NHS workers will be required to receive training in mental health issues and suicide prevention as part of the proposals, while ministers are also pledging “timely and effective support” for those affected by suicide.

Dr Donald Macgregor, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the plan “gives a clear signal that the Scottish Government is serious about supporting everyone, including children, who may develop a mental health problem”.

He called on the training to be compulsory for all staff – not just those in the NHS.

Claire Haughey, the Mental Health Minister, said: “Over the past decade, Scotland has made real progress in reducing deaths by suicide, but we have far more to do.

“This plan sets out how the Scottish Government and our partners will achieve this and it makes clear that suicide prevention is everyone’s business.”

Mandy McLaren, whose Dundee son Dale Thomson killed himself in 2015, said: “They can put any strategy they want in place, but until these psychiatrists and mental health nurses start listening to the patients, and the patients’ families, nothing is ever going to change.”