New guidance to prevent suicide in Scotland launches today

A new toolkit which will help every local authority in Scotland to develop a tailored action plan to prevent suicide is being launched today (13 April) by the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG).

This is the first time that universal information and guidance, including examples of ‘best practice’ and links to online resources, has been provided to all 32 local authorities to support them to develop effective Local Action Plans for suicide prevention in their area.

The guide will ensure that Local Action Plans align with the national strategy, make use of experiential and research evidence, meet local needs informed by what works, for whom, in what circumstances, and can be evaluated — to enable the NSPLG to build the evidence for what works.

In 2019, 833 people died by suicide in Scotland, more than two people every day. Each suicide is believed to affect at least 135 people and the economic cost for each suicide is around £1.67 million.

The guidance contains a range of resources which will support local areas to identify the needs of their community and ensure there is effective oversight of the work at senior levels. It also provides resources which will help to tackle suicide in groups of high risk such as men who are three times more likely to die by suicide than women, those living in deprived communities, those who have self-harmed or attempted suicide and those who have mental illness.

Every Life Matters: Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan’ was published in 2018 and has a vision of a Scotland where suicide is preventable.

Key strategic aims include making sure people at risk of suicide or those have been bereaved by suicide don’t feel alone, that they can ask for help and have access to skilled, co-ordinated support.

The plan also aims to end the stigma associated with suicide, deliver better services and build stronger, more connected communities through continued learning and improvement. Those with lived experience of suicide are at the heart of the work to implement the action plan and this new guidance encourages local areas to also ensure these voices help to shape activity in local communities.

COSLA’s Director of People Policy, Jane O’Donnell, said: “We are delighted to endorse this local suicide prevention action planning guidance. ‘Every Life Matters’ sets out a step change in suicide prevention across Scotland, supported by national and local action.

“The NSPLG’s approach confirms that local support is crucial to preventing suicide and local authority suicide prevention leads — and their partners — have a critical role to play in supporting this ambition. “This excellent new guidance provides a very useful framework and resources to support local authorities.

“By implementing this guidance in our communities — and sharing our experiences across areas — we will continue to learn what actions help reduce the likelihood of someone dying by suicide in Scotland.”

Rose Fitzpatrick, chair of NSPLG, said: ““Our vision is of a Scotland where suicide is preventable, where help and support is available to anyone who is contemplating suicide and to those who have lost a loved one to suicide.

“No death by suicide should ever be considered inevitable, and this means we all have a part to play. We believe suicide prevention is everyone’s business and the launch of this guidance will help to support local communities who have such an important role in keeping people safe from suicide.”

Liam Hayman (28), a member of the NSPLG Lived Experience Panel, who has made suicide attempts in the past, said: “This toolkit will help to create a consistency in the way we help people with experience of suicide. Many things, such as the restriction of prescription drugs, could be implemented across the country and have a massive positive impact.

“Signposting has not always been good in the past so having a toolkit like this means that local authorities can direct people to the right place at the right time, and that’s so crucial.”

Susan Duncan, suicide prevention lead for Angus Council, said: “This is a very welcome and needed document from the work of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group.

“Each area needs to deliver what their locality requires based on a range of factors. The national guidance will offer all areas the opportunity to review their arrangements and apply a robust framework based on good practice and research which is informed by the voices of people with lived experience.”

Steve Platt, Emeritus Professor of Health Policy Research at the University of Edinburgh, who is on the NSPLG Academic Advisory Group, said: “The NSPLG rightly recognises and supports the work carried out by local authorities and third sector organisations working at the local level to prevent and reduce suicide. Their contribution to the success of Scotland’s overall suicide prevention strategy has been massive, despite the lack of tailored advice at the local level.

“This new guidance fills this gap comprehensively and authoritatively. Containing detailed information about planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating suicide prevention action and highlighting best practice examples at local level, the guidance will ensure that local input to the national effort will be even more focused, effective and sustainable in the future. It has my full endorsement.”

The guidance has been developed over the past three years by the NSPLG in partnership with colleagues at a local level across the country, academics with expert knowledge of suicide, and people who have lived experience such as those who have had suicidal thoughts, have made suicide attempts or have been bereaved by suicide.

It has been rigorously tested through regular engagement and is designed to support local suicide prevention co-ordinators and planners by providing helpful best practice advice and case study references.

It will also be constantly updated with learning from local experiences, links to online resources, national research and data. It also provides guidance about how to carry out ongoing evaluation of the work that’s being done to prevent suicide to make sure it’s having an impact and to add to the body of evidence which supports what works to reduce the number of lives lost to suicide.

You can view the new guidance here:

Guidance home page

Learn more about Scotland’s new public awareness campaign, United to Prevent Suicide, and join our new social movement at

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or feeling suicidal, please don’t hesitate to ask for help by contacting your GP, NHS24 on 111, Samaritans on 116 123 or Breathing Space on 0800 83 58 87.

NSPLG is an independent group set up to advise on, and establish delivery of, Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

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