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One in 5 suicides in Scotland are aged under 30

One in every five suicide deaths in Scotland was someone under the age of 30 in 2020, official statistics have revealed.

A depressed person

The National Records of Scotland figures show that there were 805 probable suicides registered in Scotland in 2020 - a decrease of 28 (3%) since 2019. However, one in every five suicide deaths was someone under the age of 30, similar to previous years.

“Suicide deaths were consistently above average between July and September of 2020 (30% more suicides than usual for those three months),” said the report.

Lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic began three months earlier in March 2020.

Men accounted for 71% of suicides in 2020, although the number of female deaths from suicide rose slightly in the past year, but the overall mortality rate remained similar. In every year since 1985, more than 70% of people dying from suicide have been male. Last year the percentage who were female rose by 3% due to an increase in the number of female suicides and a decrease in the number of male suicides.

Suicides were highest for men between the ages of 35 and 39, for women the highest number of suicides were between the ages of 45 and 49.

The rate of suicides in the population had been falling between 2011 and 2015 (from 16.6 down to 12.6 suicide deaths per 100,000 people) but is now at a level similar to 2013 at 14.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 people.

The report reveals that alarmingly, the suicide rate in Scotland’s most deprived areas is three times the rate in the least deprived areas. Over the past five years, Dundee City has had the highest rate of suicide mortality, and East Renfrewshire has had the lowest – although numbers were too low to calculate a reliable rate for Shetland Islands.

Four council areas had suicide rates that were significantly higher than the average for Scotland as a whole, when looking at age-standardised data for 2016 to 2020.

The areas that were higher than the average in Scotland (14.1 deaths per 100,000 people) were:

• Dundee City (23.9)

• Highland (21.8)

• Falkirk (17.1)

• Glasgow City (15.6)

The areas that were lower than Scotland were:

• East Renfrewshire (8.7)

• Renfrewshire (9.9)

• East Dunbartonshire (10.1)

• East Lothian (10.4)

• Stirling (10.6)

For the last year that comparable data was available (2019), Scotland had the highest suicide rate in the United Kingdom at 15.7 per 100,000. Northern Ireland and Wales had similar values at 12.7 and 12.2 deaths per 100,000 people respectively, and England had the lowest with 10.8.

Following these tragic figures, Barnardo’s Scotland has called for a more comprehensive response to the mental health needs of Scotland’s children and young people including:

  • Much greater investment in support to families through a network of family support services that offer a wide range of help within communities across Scotland.
  • Increased mental health services to support children & young people’s emotional wellbeing, working closely with existing CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services).
  • Better support to groups of young people who have particular support needs such as care leavers e.g. tailored housing support through the Barnardo’s Gap Homes initiative.
  • More consistent triggering of significant case reviews in the case of child deaths so that we learn all the lessons to prevent further tragedies and identify where resources and support need to be targeted.

Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “Every death from suicide is a tragedy and it’s extremely upsetting that 93 young people took their own lives last year.

“Although rates of suicide have fallen, the pace of change is nowhere near enough.

“During the pandemic, many of the young people we support have reported increased anxiety and isolation which can lead to a deterioration in their mental health. If we are to reduce the number of suicides among young people then we need a comprehensive approach that addresses the mental health crisis with better community support and more targeted help,” he concluded.

Probable Suicide report

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