Lothians buck Scottish trend as number of suicides rises

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The number of suicides in the Lothians rose last year, bucking a nationwide trend.

New figures show that there was almost one suicide every two days in the Lothians in 2011, with 170 confirmed or suspected suicides recorded – the highest level since records began in 1974.

The latest figures have, for the first time, included some people who died after taking drug overdoses. Although the number of suicides in the city of Edinburgh and Midlothian fell in comparison with 2010 using the established way of recording deaths, there was a rise in East Lothian and in West Lothian, where numbers spiralled by 68 per cent.

Jim Sherval, specialist in public health for NHS Lothian, said despite last year’s rise, the suicide rate in the area had been lower than the Scottish average for the last five years.

He said: “Each case of suicide is a personal tragedy that can affect a great many people. The latest five-year rate shows a slight increase which may mean there is a levelling off in the longer-term trend.

“There has been a rise in figures for West Lothian. However, as with all rates, looking at a single year in isolation can obscure the long-term trend.

“As part of the national Choose Life campaign we continue to provide suicide prevention training and to support local Choose Life coordinators to help raise awareness of suicide prevention, encourage people to seek help early and support those who have been affected by suicide.”

The latest figures reflect a change in the way deaths are recorded to fall into line with World Health Organisation guidelines. Some people who died after taking drug overdoses would not have been included in statistics in previous years, but may have been added to this year’s tally. If the method of recording deaths had remained the same, 128 suicides would have been recorded in the Lothians in 2011 – an increase on the 122 recorded in 2010.

There were 89 confirmed or suspected suicides in Edinburgh, 38 in West Lothian, 27 in East Lothian and 16 in 
Midlothian.

The Lothians was among five of 14 Scottish health board areas that saw the rate rise between 2007 and 2011.

Capital-based charity Health in Mind offers counselling and support to people contemplating killing themselves.

Chief executive Gwenn McCreath said: “Some people feel, and frequently are, quite isolated and find it hard to talk about their difficulties and this is where early intervention can literally make the difference between life and death.”

For support call the Samaritans on 08457 909 090 or the Breathing Space helpline on 0800 838 587.

‘Aftermath is devastating’

JOHN Kelly knows the devastating consequences suicide can have all too well.

His brother, Darren, killed himself in March, just two-and-a-half weeks after his 17th birthday. The tragedy occurred just seven weeks after one of John’s closest friends took his own life.

John, 21, from Deans near Livingston, said: “He said he was really low. We tried to help him as much as we could but one morning it just got too much. It’s caused unimaginable pain. We wish we could have done more.

“It’s tragic for the person that takes their own life, and the aftermath is devastating.”

John has organised an event to raise funding and awareness for the Talk 2 Me online suicide help service and the Scottish Association for Mental Health. To donate or for more information, visit www.justgiving.com/johnkelly91.