A councillor has lamented Shetland’s “alarming” suicide rate which stands 40 per cent higher than the national Scottish average.
Jonathan Wills questioned why the isles rate should be so high during a presentation of a joint mental health strategy between NHS Shetland and the SIC.
It follows news NHS Shetland is set to recruit two new community psychiatric nurses as well as a consultant as part of a £180,000 mental health investment.
The council’s executive committee today heard seven people committed suicide in Shetland in 2011 – enough to give the isles, as a percentage of the population, the country’s highest suicide rate.
Statistics tabled in a report showed a suicide rate from 2008-12 of 24.8 in the isles, compared with 14.9 as a national figure.
the small numbers involved do tend to skew the figures, but Dr Wills pointed to similar island groups such as Orkney and the Western Isles which have much lower rates than Shetland.
“The suicide prevention figures do seem alarming. Our suicide rate is 40 per cent higher than the national average.
“It’s double what Tayside has. Orkney and Western Isles have much lower rates. Why are the Shetland rates so high?”
Health improvement manager Elizabeth Robinson highlighted audited findings on sudden deaths and suicides which indicated a tendency towards unemployed men aged 35 to 55, often after a relationship has broken down. She said that alcohol had often featured.
“That’s one of the themes that has come out.”
Asked by Dr Wills whether there was optimism the problem could be dealt with, she said not all suicide would be prevented from taking place.
“There are no warnings from them – they have not been in touch with services.”
She stressed the importance of developing “community resilience” and encouraging people to check up on others.
“There are some suicides which, in the future, we will be able to prevent.”
Michael Stout said “everyone” had a role to play in helping to prevent people from taking their own lives.
“One of the reasons we have such high rates is, as a community, we’re not very good at talking with one another. Each of us in this room today potentially has a role to play in this.”
Chairman Gary Robinson said friends and neighbours were people’s “most important resource” on tackling the subject.
Earlier, members had heard the Scottish government had set targets for children and young people in need of mental health treatment of 18 weeks.
That, said Dr Wills, was too long to wait for treatment. Ms Robinson insisted local targets were in place to help meed the demand more quickly.
“I’m glad to see we’re going to do better than the Scottish government target, which is a miserable target,” concluded Dr Wills.