Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has called on the Scottish Government to provide leadership and new impetus to efforts to reduce levels of suicide in Scotland.
Mr McArthur made the call during a debate in Parliament on mental health led by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, which heard concerns about continued delays in publication of the government’s new suicide prevention strategy.
The debate also follows a report from the Mental Health Foundation pointing out that suicide prevention has “lost impetus and drive at both national and local levels” and calling for “strong national leadership” to recapture ground lost since the early days of the Choose Life initiative.
While levels of suicide in Scotland have been on a downward trend for some time, the most recent figures showed a worrying increase. Mr McArthur pressed Ministers to use this as a wake up call for more urgent action on mental health generally, and suicide prevention specifically.
Following the debate, Mr McArthur said:
“Despite an increased political focus on mental health over the last decade, many of the recent statistics show that, far from making progress, things are going in the wrong direction.
“This is not a criticism of those working in our mental health services, who simply do not have the resources and support that they need. However, it undermines any claim the government might make about parity of esteem between the treatment of mental and physical health.
“It is particularly alarming that Ministers have allowed their suicide prevention strategy to lapse and the excellent Choose Life initiative to lose impetus. In Orkney, concerns have been raised with me about a lack of a local Choose Life coordinator or any funding to allow work to be undertaken that has proved effective in the past. That is highly regrettable and makes no sense.
“There is a genuine political consensus about the need to increase the priority given to tackling mental ill health, including suicide prevention. However, the government needs to use this consensus to take bolder and more urgent action to meet the challenge we face.”