Andrew Sim: Time to talk about mental health

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We were very sad to hear the news about Robin Williams. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this difficult time.

There is no simple explanation for why someone chooses to die by suicide and it is rarely due to one particular factor. Mental health problems are often a risk factor, as well as feelings of desperation and helplessness.

Although under very sad circumstances, it’s been encouraging to see people talking about depression and mental health issues and how they affect society. This will no doubt add to the positive work being done in Scotland, led by ‘see me’, challenging the stigma around mental health.

Around 90 per cent of people who take their own lives are living with a mental health condition, whether it’s diagnosed or not. We know that when a person is in crisis and struggling to cope, they can feel trapped in their situation and believe that the future holds nothing good for them. They may not be able to see beyond their situation and truly believe that suicide is the only option.

The Samaritans offers a safe space for people to be themselves and talk about their problems without fear of being judged. By really listening to what our callers are saying, we can help them to feel calmer, see their situation in a different light and start to find their own way forward.

Sometimes people want to talk about their problems, but we don’t always spot the signs that they are struggling to cope. These might include: making statements that show their hopelessness or putting themselves down in a serious or jokey way; being irritable or nervous; a change in routine; drinking, smoking or using drugs more than usual; becoming withdrawn or losing touch with friends and family; losing interest in their appearance.

We’d like to remind anyone who has been affected by the news of Robin Williams’ death that we are here. Contact us on 08457 909090 or

• Andrew Sim is the Samaritans executive director for Scotland