New moves are under way in the North-east to help people at risk of suicide.
A major conference to discuss prevention was held in Inverurie this week organised by Aberdeenshire Choose Life, a multi-agency group led by the local council with partners from the health and voluntary sector.
Last year a total of 781 people took their own lives in Scotland, 32 of them in Aberdeenshire. Many more attempted suicide.
Choose Life is a national campaign and since its launch in 2002, Scotland’s suicide rate has decreased by 14%.
One of the main aims of the conference, which was held in Inverurie Town Hall on Tuesday (October 25), was to discuss ways of reducing the rate in the region next year.
A total of 13 organisations staffed information stands at the event including Childline, the Samaritans, Breathing Space and the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), alongside a number of local support groups. The event featured morning and afternoon sessions.
Linda Paterson, who is Aberdeenshire Choose Life co-ordinator, said: “It’s important that if you are worried someone you know might be having thoughts of suicide, you ask them about it. They are usually relieved that someone else has broached the subject.
“Fear of how others might react can often prevent people from talking about their suicidal feelings. Suicide can affect anyone and we need to be able to talk about it openly and honestly if we are going to tackle it effectively.
“Suicide continues to disproportionately affect people living in more deprived areas and young men – it is a complex issue and suicidal feelings can impact on anybody at any point in time.
“This is often due to a build up of problems and feelings of hopelessness that are so acute suicide is seen as the only way to escape the pain. I feel that we can all play a vital role by talking to each other openly and honestly.”
It is estimated two people a day in Scotland commit suicide and it is one of the leading causes of death among young people.
The co-ordinator said it was hoped the conference would help to raise awareness of the issue.
She stressed the importance of talking with potential victims as it could provide clarity about what was troubling them.
She added: “Starting a conversation is half the battle. You don’t need to have an answer to their problems – just be there for them, try to listen without judging and show that you care. These are the first steps in helping someone find a sense of hope – and potentially saving a life.”
Councillor Gurudoe Saluja, who is chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s social work and housing committee, said he hoped that the conference would go some way towards raising awareness of the need to tackle the issue of suicide in the area.
He added: “The conference was well organised and we heard from speakers from all walks of life. It is important that young people know that help is available to them and I hope that message has come across.”
Anyone feeling suicidal, or who suspects that someone they know is considering suicide, can contact the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (24 hours), or Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 (Monday to Thursday 6pm – 2am, Friday 6pm – Monday 6am).