New figures which suggest Shetland has the highest suicide rate in Scotland are “significant” despite the small population.
That is the view of one of the women whose job involves trying to reduce the number of deaths by suicide.
A new report, by the Scottish Public Health Observatory (ScotPHO), shows that seven people in Shetland took their own life in 2012.
Although the small size of the community can skew the figures, it was still significant, said NHS Shetland Choose Life co-ordinator Karen Smith.
Since 2000, 43 lives have been lost to suicide, said Ms Smith and in recent years Shetland has had between one and seven suicides annually. That contrasts with Glasgow where there were 105 suicides last year, but the much higher population means the rate is lower.
Ms Smith said: “Statistics for Shetland are often not significant due to the small numbers; however we need to recognise that seven lives a year lost to suicide are significant.
“The impact these losses have on individuals, families and communities cannot hide behind statistics. Every life lost is a tragedy, every life lost is significant.
“Whilst we cannot prevent every suicide we would like to understand what can be done to make a difference to people who are thinking of suicide.”
She is participating in Suicide Prevention Awareness Week from Sunday 8th September to Saturday 14th September.
This year part of the focus is promoting the “Read between the Lines” campaign, which aims to involve whole communities in suicide prevention.
Its message is that suicide is preventable, and anyone can help by acting on the signs of suicidal intent they notice in others. It seeks to do this by highlighting the “ambiguous” nature of suicide, and encouraging people to act on any warning sign they see, even if a person also displays seemingly normal behaviour.
The campaign also highlights that is okay to ask friends, relatives or colleagues what is troubling them, and to be aware how and where to get help. This could be from organisations such as Breathing Space and the Samaritans. The campaign will also be holding roadshows with events throughout the isles.
Ms Smith added: “We really want people to come along and tell us what they think will make a difference. People can speak completely confidentially, the only information we want to capture is what needs to change or improve.”
The ScotPHO report found that in 2012, the suicide rate for males was almost three times that for females, and that suicide nationally is strongly-related to deprivation. In the four years up to 2012, the suicide rate in Scotland was over four times higher in the most deprived tenth of the population compared to the least deprived.
However rates in Scotland are going down – they reduced by 18 per cent in the period 2000-02 to 2010-12. For a full report see Friday’s Shetland Times