Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton has today called on the Scottish Government to explore publishing more regularly official statistics on the number of deaths by suicide to help react to the mental health tidal wave that it is feared has been caused by Covid-19.
This week the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group raised concerns about the impact of the virus crisis on mental health and called on the government to "undertake enhanced monitoring of statistics on suicide and self-harm to identify emerging trends and groups at risk, to enable early preventative action".
Currently figures are published around six months after the year they depict. There were 784 probable suicides registered in Scotland in 2018, which was an increase from 680 in 2017 (15%), including a 50% year-on-year increase among young people.
The expected publication on 30 June of the statistics for 2019 had to be cancelled due to pressures related to COVID-19.
Alex Cole-Hamilton commented:
“This crisis has left many feeling anxious and isolated. Too many have experienced grief in their personal lives or their professional ones. I fear we're going to have a mental health tidal wave on our hands and we need to be ready for it.
"Suicide statistics are published just once a year and with a significant time lag. We need to be reactive, recognising concerning trends and responding to them.
"I worry this lag will slow that process and understanding down at a time when we need to be acting quicker than ever before to save lives. I therefore urge the government to explore releasing information more regularly, for example on a monthly or quarterly basis.
"At the outset of this crisis there were already a record number of children waiting over a year for the mental health treatment they need. Adults were waiting up to two years too.
"The Scottish Government needs to put in place a transformative plan to both meet the pre-crisis backlog of people waiting for help and the likelihood of heightened demand. That should start with picking up the pace on workforce expansion."