Devastating rise in suicide deaths

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A rise in Scotland’s suicide count is devastating as Oban keeps up its best to prevent more lives being lost.

Founder and chairman of Martyn’s Monday Club (MMC) Des MacMillan spoke to The Oban Times after Scotland’s figures for 2019 were published, revealing a probable 833 people took their own lives.

‘We all knew the figures would be up but when you see it in black and white it hits hard. It’s getting worse even though there are more groups and services out there. It’s devastating.

‘If the numbers are like that last year what will this year’s be like with the pandemic? Looking at our own town, that we know of, there have  been four suicides and one at the end of 2019. It’s heart breaking. We are desperate to keep going what we are doing and to build on it.’

But Mr MacMillan said peer to peer support group MMC had not so far seen the big numbers of new people coming to its meetings that it expected, although the number of enquiries had gone up.

‘We were gearing up for a big rise in numbers but we have not see it and that’s our worry that people are out there suffering because of the pandemic and other anxieties who are still not coming through our door. We’re exploring different options to see how we can change that.

‘There are still stigmas attatched to mental health and suicide. It’s not an easy group to come to because we are not programmed to sit and talk about our mental health. We hope to break those stigmas down one day.’


MMC is trying ‘desperately hard’ to get funding to employ two full-time co-ordinators. ‘We really are going to see a lot more problems over the next few months and next year because of covid. Even with the best will in the world we can’t do all we that need to do just with volunteers,’ said Mr MacMillan praising the community for its support. ‘As ever Oban is so generous. We know the community is backing us 100 per cent and they are amazing,’ he said.

MMC runs its per to peer support men’s group from its Breadlebane Street base on a Monday, a women’s group on a Tuesday and also has a youth group. Oban High School  recently appointed two of its staff to work with the club delighting MMC founders who were desperate for a connection after taking many  calls from parents worried about their children’s mental health.

Latest figures released by National Records of Scotland show the number of people who died by suicide in Scotland in 2019 are up for a second successive year. According to those statistics there were 833 probable suicides registered last year, an increase of 6 per cent on 2018. This is the highest annual total since 2011.

Men accounted for nearly three quarters of the probable suicides  with almost one third of all probable suicides being people aged between 45 and 59.

Data from 2019 which is pre-covid, also show an  increase in female suicide in the 15-24 age bracket as well as a rise in male and females over 55.

Over the last five years in Scotland, 3,697 people took their own life. The average suicide rate for the last five years was 13.9 deaths per 100,000.

Experts say it is still too early to know what the long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be on mental health and wellbeing but more action on suicide prevention is needed now to reduce future risk.

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