Suicide prevention toolkit launched

All council health and social care workers and all 42 professional Scottish football teams will get new training

Tuesday 28th May 2019

A new mental health and suicide prevention initiative in partnership between the Scottish Government, the Scottish Professional Football League and the Scottish FA has been launched today by Minister for Mental Health, Clare Haughey.

Speaking to healthandcare.scot, the MSP describes mental health as the “last taboo in sport”.

There is still a stigma about it in elite sport, and football is no different,” she says. “Chatting with ex-football players today about their time in the sport and how macho an environment it could be, they think things have changed but that there is still a way to go”.

The Scottish Professional Football League and the Scottish FA will be among the first to roll out the training to players and staff across all 42 clubs.

A commitment has also been made to take the training to Scotland’s 250,000 local authority employees, as part of a cross-sectoral approach to identifying and supporting people in distress.

Consisting of three short animations totalling around nine minutes, the focus is on “encouraging people to ask how their friends and the people around about them are and for people to talk about how they’re feeling,” says Clare Haughey.

“It’s also about enabling lives to be saved by accessing services and appropriate support if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal.”

The Scottish Government is aiming to reduce suicide by 20% by 2022.

On average, two people die by suicide every day in Scotland and one in three people who take their own life have had no contact with any specialist services before they die.

“That’s tragic and preventable”, says George Dodds, director of NHS Health Scotland and member of the member of the national suicide prevention leadership group. “We need to change that dramatically…

“That’s why NHS Education for Scotland and NHS Health Scotland have worked together to develop these resources, to help the Scottish workforce improve mental health and prevent suicide.

“The online animations aim to raise awareness of the issues that affect people and that can lead those in distress to sometimes think about taking their own life. They’re also designed to increase the confidence of healthcare staff to respond compassionately and effectively to support anyone in that situation.”

Speaking to healthandcare.scot, Minister Clare Haughey describes mental health as “the last taboo in sport”.

Ms Haughey added: “I think having football clubs on board with this has a double effect in that it helps support their players and staff, but we have also to remember that these are role models for many, many people and if our role models are talking about mental health, mental well-being and suicide prevention, that will encourage other people to do so.”

Keen to see the training used by other, if not all, sporting organisations in Scotland, the need to involve those with lived experience has been at the centre of the construction of the training materials. “It has been absolutely vital to ensure the voices of those with lived experience - of those who have felt suicidal themselves or have been bereaved by suicide – are put at the centre of the work we do,” says Clare Haughey.

“The suicide prevention leadership group has that lived experience on the group. Similarly with every consultation that I’ve launched since I became minister, we ensure that lived experience is key, front and centre.”

Alongside the online video resources, NHS Health Scotland and NHS Education Scotland will be publishing a new knowledge and skills framework and workforce development plan for mental health and suicide prevention.