Suicide: policy context

In 2013, the Suicide prevention strategy 2013-2016 was published by the Scottish Government, setting out commitments aimed at continuing to reduce the number of suicides in Scotland, based on emerging evidence on factors which can be associated with suicide. It stated that: "The World Health Organization has adopted a global target that suicides will be reduced by 10% by 2020. During the period of this strategy, we want to continue the downward trend in the rate of suicide in Scotland and make progress towards the WHO target."

One of the five key themes of the strategy is developing the evidence base, and it acknowledges the role of the Scottish Suicide Information Database (ScotSID) which links records of deaths from suicide with expanded information on demographics and prior contact with a range of health services.

The Scottish Government’s mental health strategy, published in 2017, contained a framework and list of priorities for mental health in Scotland. The Scottish Government will also build on these priorities in a separate Suicide Prevention Strategy which is due for publication in 2017.

Previous key policy documents include:

  • The Scottish Government's Choose Life strategy and action plan, launched in 2002. This ten-year action plan included the target of reducing the suicide rate in Scotland by 20% by 2013, and a wide range of actions were implemented to support people at risk of suicide. Progress towards the target was measured using 3-year rolling rates, and between 2000-02 and 2011-13 there was an overall decrease of 19%.
  • The 2009 report 'Refreshing the National Strategy and action plan to prevent suicide in Scotland'. This acknowledged the progress that had been made, but broadened the approach to include a greater focus on action to reduce suicide in clinical services, including in general practice, mental health and substance misuse services.
  • Within the 2017 Mental health strategy the Scottish Government makes commitments regarding mental health improvement, services and recovery, to ensure delivery of effective, high quality care and treatment for people with a mental illness, their carers and families. Many of the commitments will contribute towards prevention and the long-term reduction in the number of suicides in Scotland.