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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 15 September 2020

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Migration and Care Workers, Decision Time, World Suicide Prevention Day 2020


Contents


World Suicide Prevention Day 2020

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-22632, in the name of Ruth Maguire, on world suicide prevention day 2020. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament acknowledges that 10 September 2020 is World Suicide Prevention Day; understands that this provides the opportunity for people, across the globe, to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention; notes that, every year, it is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages and it is responsible for over 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds; acknowledges that prevention requires integrative strategies that encompass work at the individual, systems and community level, and notes the calls for everyone to play their part to prevent suicide.

17:26  

Ruth Maguire (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

World suicide prevention day is on 10 September. Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages, accounting for more than 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds.

I know that many colleagues will have been personally affected by suicide, whether of a loved one, someone we know or members of the community that we represent.

Suicide is of concern to us all and we can all play our part in preventing it. It is a leading cause of death among young people, and men are three times more likely to take their own lives compared with women.

It is not an easy thing to think about and it is not an easy thing to talk about, but we must talk. I am grateful to colleagues from all parties who signed the motion, enabling the debate to go ahead so that we can do just that: talk. I look forward to what I know will be their thoughtful contributions and insights as we come together to raise awareness this evening.

It feels a little strange opening the debate remotely, but the past six months have been just that: strange. Perhaps that is not a strong enough word—perhaps what I mean is that this period has been worrying, uncomfortable, stressful and, at times, totally overwhelming. So, perhaps now more than ever, we need to talk and, of course, listen.

In this place, we know how powerful words are: they can anger, divide and exclude, but they can also provide comfort, understanding and assistance. It is important that we know that saying the word suicide is not a trigger and that it can help to save a life.

We need to be confident to say suicide when we are talking about it. We need to feel confident to connect someone to the right support. If talking can save lives, an important part of any strategy to prevent suicide is for all of us to feel comfortable to talk about it.

Samaritans has helpful advice on its website. It knows that

“Many people worry that reaching out will be intrusive or make things worse”,

but it says that

“You’ll soon be able to tell if the person you’re speaking to isn’t comfortable or doesn’t want to have that kind of conversation. If they don’t want to open up, you’ll still have let them know you’re there for them ... Once someone starts to share how they’re feeling, it’s important to listen. This could mean not offering advice, not trying to identify what they’re going through with your own experiences and not trying to solve their problems.”

Samaritans gives some listening tips to help people to give the best support that they can. It calls them SHUSH: show you care; have patience; use open questions; say it back; and have courage. There are more details about that on the Samaritans website.

Importantly, Samaritans reiterates that, if a person is worried that someone is suicidal, it is okay to ask them that directly. Research shows that that helps, because it gives them permission to tell you how they feel and shows that they are not a burden.

As with most things, there are inequalities in suicide risk. People in lower socioeconomic positions are at the highest risk of suicide, whether the indicator that is used is job, class, education, income or housing. The less privilege that someone has in those areas, the greater is their risk of suicide, even after taking into account underlying mental health problems. The suicide rate in our most deprived areas is?nearly three times higher than that in the least deprived. Feelings of powerlessness and social exclusion, poor mental health, unhealthy lifestyles, stigma and disrespect, and greater levels of adverse experiences might all be factors. I would appreciate it if, in her closing remarks, the minister could share her reflections on that particular manifestation of inequality and say what the Scottish Government is doing to address it. To recognise that we need a national approach, with targeted local action for the communities that face the greatest risks, would seem to be crucial.

Members will be well aware of the good work of the many relevant organisations and groups that operate nationally and in their constituencies. I refer not just to bodies that support mental health directly, but others, such as our sports clubs, men’s sheds and community associations that play a hugely important role in the wellbeing of our communities.

I commend all those who work towards our shared vision of a Scotland in which suicide is preventable, and help and support are available to anyone contemplating suicide and to those who have lost a loved one to it. Suicide prevention is everybody’s business. Let us keep talking and acting to make that vision a reality.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

We move to the open debate. Speeches should be of around four minutes, please.

17:32  

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I, too, am joining the debate remotely, from my home town in Dumfries. I welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate and congratulate my friend and colleague Ruth Maguire on bringing it to the chamber. I thank the Scottish Association for Mental Health, Support in Mind Scotland and See Me Scotland for their briefings for members, which have been very useful, as they always are.

World suicide prevention day took place on Thursday 10 September. It is vital that we continue to raise awareness of the issue. It is often difficult for people to speak about it, but it is crucial that we reach out to those at risk of taking their own lives to assure them that help and support are available. As we have said in previous debates, every life matters and suicide is preventable.

As convener of the cross-party group on mental health and deputy convener of the Health and Sport Committee, I am keenly aware of the issue of suicide prevention. I have reflected on that in preparing for the debate, and my thoughts are with families who I know have been affected by someone taking their own life.

The year 2020 has been like no other. As has been the case everywhere around the world, we in Scotland have faced the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had an impact on the mental health of all—from our older people and those with disabilities who have been shielding, to our young people who have missed out on school and contact with their peers, and those who are having to work from home or who have lost their income. It is therefore essential that all possible actions are taken to support people who may be at increased risk of suicide because of Covid-19, including those in remote and rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway. In 2017, 21 people across that region took their own lives, and two thirds of those were men. That is the most up-to-date data that we have.

It is important that we recognise that behind each number is a person—an individual—and their family and friends, all of whom are affected by such tragedy. Therefore, it is extremely important for local authorities, Government and healthcare professionals to learn from each experience, to listen to families and to implement effective policies. I am pleased that that has been the Scottish Government’s approach, based on 10 actions proposed by its national suicide prevention leadership group. I welcome the commitment to mental health first aid training, the commencement of the distress brief intervention approach by healthcare professionals and the introduction of the role of counsellors in schools.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has an interesting approach—it calls its counsellors youth information officers, which is the name that was used in the pilot scheme. Using that language could be described as less stigmatising and may encourage more to access support, which is available all year round, not just at school term time.

Many rural mental health organisations, such as the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution and Support in Mind Scotland, have noted that rural and social isolation is one of the contributing factors to suicidal thoughts. We have great examples from across Dumfries and Galloway of organisations—Ruth Maguire mentioned men’s sheds—that are working to address isolation. We have the retired farming social group, which brings together retired farmers to socialise, engage and speak about their farming and life experiences. I have participated in group meetings chaired by Willie Dunlop and organised by Jill Rennie, and found it well worth while.

Another group that supports engagement is the Dumfries and Galloway Farmers Choir. I was pleased to host and hear the fabulous farmers choir sing on the Parliament’s garden lobby steps last November—it sounded fantastic. The group has been active during lockdown, checking on its members and promoting positive wellbeing and inclusion using social media. Its fundamental aim is to reduce social isolation and show others in the community that they are not alone and that there are people who will support them if they need it.

The Scottish Association for Mental Health, which provides the secretariat for the cross-party group on mental health, has a couple of asks of the minister, which I will convey. In Scotland, 784 people died by suicide in 2018, which is, on average, two people each day. However, due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, we do not yet have the 2019 statistics. SAMH and other mental health partners consider it crucial that up-to-date data on suicide is published as soon as possible, so that they can check that the measures to reduce those numbers are effective. Can the minister indicate when the statistics will be released?

Again, I welcome the debate, and note that every life matters and that we can prevent suicide.

17:37  

Brian Whittle (South Scotland) (Con)

I, too, thank Ruth Maguire for securing time in the chamber to debate a really important subject.

As Ruth Maguire said, suicide and suicide prevention is such an emotive subject. What surprised me was finding out how many people have been touched by suicide or attempted suicide. I want to mention the families and friends of those who are caught in a suicide bubble and driven towards taking their own life, and how difficult that is for the family. Every waking moment, family and friends are wondering where that person is. They worry whenever they pick up the phone, or when there is no answer to their calls. Families and friends take someone along to appropriate health interventions and they are there to try to support them. I do not think that we are set up to know how to do that.

I remember being with someone at such a meeting with a general practitioner—I had secured time in the GP’s surgery to discuss poor mental health. The first question that the GP asked was, “Have you ever thought of taking your own life?” I thought to myself, “What happens if they had never thought about that, but they are now thinking about it?” I did not like that question. The second question was, “How much physical activity do you do?” The third question was, “What’s your sex life like?” I thought that the person’s response to that was great. They said, “Well, I’m married—don’t be silly.” The idea, of course, was to try to cover up the hurt and the pain with a little bit of humour.

I say without any politics at all that we must look at the whole system and at how we can provide support. Suicide affects many more people than I ever would have thought.

We must also consider the impact of the current pandemic on mental health, which the first two speakers mentioned. It is causing anxiety, isolation and loneliness, especially for those who live alone, the elderly and those who have had to isolate. I was struck by the discussion at the last meeting of the cross-party group on chronic pain. I would not have expected the topic to come up, but some in the group said that, because lockdown had prevented them from accessing treatment, they had considered taking their own lives.

It is the same for those waiting for elective surgery, or experiencing addiction. In Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley we have had the highest increase in addiction deaths in Scotland. I hear from services there that they do not know what the situation is, because they have lost touch with those who were involved in addiction. The police have had to pick up the slack and have had a one third increase in the number of call-outs to people who have mental health issues.

It will be no surprise to members that I look to work on activity and food. SAMH promotes activity as a solution for poor mental health and the Mental Health Foundation has a great booklet called “Food for Thought”, which talks about nutrition as an approach to mental health. Prior to Covid, we took for granted that ability to participate, socialise and integrate.

I was glad to hear Ruth Maguire highlight the impact on the male population, specifically in connection with deprivation. We know that men are far more likely to take their own lives, and that that is more likely to happen in deprived areas. We know where the issues are. Why do we not target our resources there? That is my ask. How can we target our resources specifically at the greatest need?

I thank Ruth Maguire for bringing the debate to the chamber.

17:42  

James Dornan (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)

I, too, thank my colleague Ruth Maguire for bringing the debate to the chamber.

The word “collaborators” is used in suicide prevention. Collaborators can be those who live through that experience. As somebody who gave it a go but, thankfully, was unsuccessful, I thought that it would be appropriate for me to try to explain some of the reasons behind that.

You get to a point where you think that nobody cares or understands and that it is all on you and that you are useless. I have explained that before in articles and in the chamber. Then you do not know where else to go. It is not that there is no one there, but you cannot get through the wall between you and them. Very often they do not recognise the problem. Brain Whittle used the example of the guy in the doctor’s surgery. You cover everything up with humour—that is the Glasgow, or west of Scotland, or Scottish, way. Sometimes it is too late by the time people realise that something is wrong.

Once I had failed miserably, I decided that I had to get treatment. That was probably putting the cart before the horse. It worked out well and I am where I am now, but the issues do not go away. Your coping mechanisms come in. It is about being able to say, “Okay, I’m depressed, I’m stressed.” I take pills every day to deal with anxiety, stress and depression, but that allows me to lead the life that I lead. When you see me cracking jokes and telling stories and doing all the things that I do, that might not always be how I feel.

The important thing is that other people—not me—recognise that. Sometimes, if there is something off with a friend, we need to have a wee word with them and a look to see whether, behind the humour and that smile, there is a wee bit of sadness in their eyes. Start to talk to them—most of the time, we think that someone will not talk to us, but they can be desperate to talk, given the opportunity. When we do that, things become easier for everybody.

The truth is that, if someone looks beyond that smile and confident face and checks for that glimpse of sadness, anger and frustration, they could find that, in the long run, they are doing two things: they could be saving that life and also creating a new one. I am a completely different person now and in a different place from where I was at that time. I still suffer from the same illnesses—or whatever—but I know how to cope with them better. I am also very fortunate that I have people around me and I recognise that in a way that I did not before. Talking to someone could mean not just saving a life but creating a new one. That is an incredibly strong power to have—it is an incredible thing to do and we have all got it in us. Pay attention to friends and family and be sure to look for the signs.

There will be times when people do not want to talk, as Ruth Maguire was saying earlier. If so, we just have to be there for them and let them know that the minute they want to talk, we are there to listen. Anyone who does that will find that, true enough, not all heroes wear capes, because they can save a life just by being a decent person.

This is always an important debate, but it is particularly important just now, because of what we have been going through over the past six months. Like everyone else, I have had my down periods. If we do not get to speak to people or are in a very small group, no matter how happy that group is, it becomes a bit frustrating. Now that we have the opportunity to go out, we can communicate with others. It is very important that we have this conversation and that people understand the necessity of looking out for their neighbours, friends and families, speaking to them and, most importantly, giving them the opportunity to speak to us when they think that we need it.

I thank Ruth Maguire for bringing the debate to the chamber and for listening to my ramblings on this very important issue.

17:47  

Mary Fee (West Scotland) (Lab)

I want to begin by thanking James Dornan for his very personal and powerful speech. I am sure that his words will echo in homes not just in Scotland but across the UK, given the powerful sentiments that he expressed.

Every life lost to suicide is one too many. I know that this Parliament is united to prevent suicides and improve the mental health of Scotland’s people. As one of several MSPs who lodged a motion to mark world suicide prevention day, I thank Ruth Maguire for lodging her motion and securing this important members’ business debate.

Preventing suicide is a public health priority. Sadly, the reality for Scotland is that our suicide rate has been increasing and we have a higher suicide rate than the rest of the United Kingdom. However, those figures are from the 2019 release on 2018 statistics. The Scottish Government must release the 2019 figures and should have done so before now—although I appreciate that the coronavirus has taken precedence over many health issues this year. I raised that issue in the motion that I lodged. I know that SAMH has called for the information to be released, as did Emma Harper.

We are two years away from the target to reduce suicides by 20 per cent. I welcome that target and sincerely hope that we can reduce suicides by more than 20 per cent. A clear data set should be made available to ensure that we are on the right track in preventing and reducing suicides.

World suicide prevention day last Thursday saw the launch of a new campaign, united to prevent suicide. I have signed up to the campaign and shared the information on my social media pages, and I call on my MSP colleagues to do the same if they have not already done so. As the minister and members will be aware, the campaign was set up as part of “Every Life Matters”, the suicide prevention plan. The campaign has been shared by the voices of people with lived experience of suicide. It will take a unified effort to prevent suicides, and understanding and utilising the lived experiences of those who are impacted by suicide is a key tool. Anyone can be affected by poor mental health and suicide, and all of us have our part to play, especially in times such as these.

The coronavirus pandemic is far from over, and we do not have a full picture of what the impact of the pandemic will be on mental health. However, we know that, pre-Covid, certain groups were more likely to be affected by suicide, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, males of a certain age and those in poverty. Males are three times more likely than women to die from suicide, especially men aged between 25 and 54. More can and must be done to understand why those groups are at greater risk.

I repeat what I said at the beginning of my contribution: every life lost to suicide is one too many. We know that there are challenges in preventing suicides, but we also know that there is compassion, good will and determination in Scotland to tackle this public health problem. I hope that we are on the right track to reducing the number of suicides. I want the target to be met, if not exceeded. However, we must have the data available to monitor our progress.

17:52  

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I thank Ruth Maguire for bringing this important subject to Parliament. Some years ago, I hosted an event in the Parliament for Samaritans, which was congratulating one of its number on his very long service to the cause of suicide prevention. I very much admire the work that is done by Samaritans.

Unfortunately, that was very far from being my first contact with the issue of suicide. In preparation for the debate, I was able to identify six people with whom I had varying degrees of contact who subsequently committed suicide. One was a teenage boy with a colostomy bag. That has a major effect on someone’s psychology, and their hormone balance becomes quite different from normal. He committed suicide from the depression that flowed from that.

Another was one of my female colleagues at the Bank of Scotland, who had a long history of depressive illness. She was, in fact, in hospital when she escaped the close supervision that there was for her and was able to commit suicide. Another was a former colleague who had run a very successful part of our company. He went off to start something similar for his own account elsewhere. That business failed, and he committed suicide. Another was a friend and neighbour who just found life too much; the details are difficult to come by.

Indeed, when my father bought his medical practice in 1947, he did so because the previous general practitioner had committed suicide and the practice had become available. I did not know that for many years.

I want to speak about a close family member who committed suicide. This individual showed no signs whatsoever of mental ill health that the rest of us could detect. He expressed no suicidal thoughts in any of his comments to us, but it was clear that he was determined to take the course that he ultimately took. His practical preparations extended over a considerable period.

What was the effect on the family? For my part, I attended the mortuary to identify the deceased—not something that I wish to do again. Police interviews to confirm that the circumstances were not suspicious were a natural part of what happened and, much more to the point, the family of the individual had to be looked after in their extremity. I am delighted to say that they have all come through it successfully, but that could have gone a different way.

As somebody who worked in a psychiatric hospital at the age of 17, death was not unfamiliar to me, or being with the dying and dead. However, when it is that close and baffling—to this day I do not know why that suicide occurred—it tells you an awful lot about the variety of human thinking and human life. We all may have a little mental ill health from time to time, which may be as trivial as a mental health sniffle, or it may be a major problem that requires medical intervention. However, we will not always see that coming, as we in our family did not see it coming for the individual I have talked about.

As a number of speakers have said, one thing that we can do is to listen. Sometimes the briefest of interventions is the most appropriate. When you see somebody you have not seen for a while and you are perhaps not very close to, just say hi. Do not say more or ask how they are, but see what response you get. That is a good start and, if they hesitate, that is a warning sign to you to listen. That is the main thing that we can do—just listen. Do what they ask, if they ask, but do not try to guide people. That will often put pressure on them that is not helpful.

I thank Ruth Maguire for the opportunity to talk again about this very important subject. I hope that it makes a useful contribution to supporting people who are affected by suicide and, more importantly, to reducing the number of people who use it as the way out.

17:57  

The Minister for Mental Health (Clare Haughey)

I am pleased to respond on behalf of the Scottish Government, and I add my thanks to Ruth Maguire for lodging the motion in recognition of world suicide prevention day. I welcome the debate as an opportunity to raise awareness of suicide and the devastating impact that it can have on people, families and communities.

Suicide is a complex subject, and people often find it difficult to talk about it. For many years, we have been making progress in reducing the number of people who die by suicide. That has been achieved through the collective efforts of many individuals and organisations across Scotland. However, in 2018, 784 people sadly died as a result of suicide, and every one of those lives lost was a tragedy.

I have always made it clear that no death by suicide should be regarded as inevitable. We must continue our shared efforts to support people who are at risk of suicide and endeavour to prevent people getting to a place where they consider suicide as the only option. That is particularly important at this time, when we know that the economic and social consequences of the pandemic are putting significant additional strain on many people.

As was set out in this year’s programme for government, we will shortly publish a mental health transition and recovery plan containing the wide range of actions that we will take to address those pressures, especially for more vulnerable groups. Today, however, I am keen to join others in highlighting current work on suicide prevention.

Last week, I took part in activities to launch the new united to prevent suicide campaign, which was referenced by Mary Fee. The new branding and public awareness activity aims to start a social movement that helps people to build the confidence to talk about suicide, and it invites people to pledge their support for the national movement for change. I am delighted that more than 1,000 people have already pledged their support since the campaign launched, last week. The new campaign states that each and every one of us has a role to play in preventing suicide, and I whole-heartedly endorse that. Like Mary Fee, I encourage members to sign up to the campaign and to share the information on their social media platforms.

That public awareness work is an important element of our suicide prevention action plan and our suicide prevention response to the pandemic. The new campaign has been funded by the Scottish Government, and it is being led by our national suicide prevention leadership group. That group, which is chaired by Rose Fitzpatrick, was set up to support delivery of the 10 actions in the Scottish Government’s suicide prevention action plan “Every Life Matters”, which I launched in the summer of 2018. The leadership group reports to both the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, reflecting the shared interest and the collaboration that is needed in this important area.

The fact that the leadership group’s work is supported by a lived experience panel of people who have personal links to suicide is key. They have helped to shape and influence the delivery of all the actions that we are taking. I will highlight a few recent areas of focus, some of which go wider than the plan.

We know from those with lived experience about the importance of ready support for those who are in distress. That is why our additional investment over the pandemic period—for example, in making the NHS 24 mental health hub accessible 24/7 and rolling out distress brief interventions—was vital.

We also know about the importance of reaching those who work with potentially vulnerable groups. Therefore, in conjunction with NHS Education for Scotland and Public Health Scotland, we have just launched animations that are aimed at promoting mental health and supporting learning on suicide prevention and self-harm among those who work with children and young people. The animations build on the ones that were launched last year for those who work with adults in mental health services.

Those with lived experience have taught us that the grief that is caused by suicide bereavement is often complicated and that it typically lasts longer than other types of bereavement. We are therefore taking forward plans to pilot a rapid response service for people who have been bereaved by suicide, to ensure that they can quickly get the support that they need at an extremely difficult time for them.

The need for effective information and evidence has already been highlighted. That is why we are working with partners to develop pilot processes to review all deaths by suicide and enable national sharing of any lessons learned. In response to the leadership group’s recent recommendations for a suicide prevention response to the pandemic, we are working with Public Health Scotland to improve data on suicides.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Some people choose to take their lives on the railway. Will the minister join me in congratulating the railway companies and Network Rail on all the work that they have done in a very difficult area for them? The railway companies and Network Rail have done that work for years, and they are very good at it. In Waverley station this week, I saw lots of posters because of suicide prevention week.

Clare Haughey

I absolutely echo what Maureen Watt says. I was fortunate enough to go out on the railway with the railway chaplain during suicide prevention week two years ago, I think, and I saw the work that they do and how important it is. I heard about the support that they give to railway staff who have experienced at-work suicide or someone attempting suicide.

We are also considering how we can restrict access to some of the most commonly used methods of suicide, and we are taking an evidence-based approach to ensuring that we have adequate support for those who are in suicidal crisis.

Those are just some of the elements of work that are currently under way in relation to the suicide prevention action plan as well as our response to the pandemic. However, I know that there is more to be done. We will work with COSLA, the leadership group and other stakeholders to develop a longer-term suicide prevention strategy.

Maurice Corry (West Scotland) (Con)

I, too, agree with Maureen Watt on the work that the railway companies do. That happens many times, and what the railway companies do, how they get over it and the training of their staff are brilliant.

Armed forces veterans are a passion of mine. What is the minister doing to link her plans to veterans and to glean information, help, support and advice from the veterans side? I know that we are doing a lot of work on the issue, and we are obviously watching keenly to see what will happen at the end of the Covid period.

Clare Haughey

I thank Mr Corry for his advocacy for veterans, of which he has spoken on many occasions, and for his passion in championing veterans’ mental health.

As I have said, a transition plan will be published shortly, and we will be targeting certain work towards groups that we know are more vulnerable. There is a whole-population approach to mental health and mental health awareness, which is obviously very important, but we are mindful of the fact that some sections of our society, because of their past experiences, are more vulnerable to mental illness and to experiencing suicidal thoughts. We and the suicide prevention leadership group are very mindful of that.

A new strategy will look beyond mental health to the specific drivers for suicide, including feelings of isolation, entrapment and loneliness. As the leadership group’s recent statement acknowledges, the Scottish Government is already taking action across a range of areas that will contribute to suicide prevention, but a new, longer-term strategy will be an opportunity to provide unity in those approaches.

I would like to acknowledge the contribution of all those individuals and organisations who work to prevent suicide. I know that there are many of them and that their work across Scotland does save lives. I want them to know that they have my support and sincere thanks for all they do.

If I may, Presiding Officer, I will respond to some of the points that have been raised by members in the debate before I sum up. Emma Harper and Mary Fee asked about statistics. National Records of Scotland is aiming to publish suicide statistics, which had been delayed, in November 2020. I acknowledge that we need to have data to drive forward action for the changes that we want to put in place.

I congratulated Ruth Maguire on bringing this very important debate to the chamber, and there have been some very thoughtful and measured contributions, including very personal experiences from Stewart Stevenson and Brian Whittle. I pay particular tribute to James Dornan for his openness and honesty in his personal contribution to the debate. I am sure that there are people who will see the debate and take comfort from the words that he spoke, and I admire his bravery in doing so.

Our work on suicide prevention recognises that this is not just an issue for the Scottish Government, nor for the NHS. It requires collaboration across all sectors of life in Scotland. I again urge members to show their support by signing up to the united to prevent suicide movement and to raise awareness of suicide and how we talk about it. By having those conversations and being open, we can help to save lives.

The title of our suicide prevention action plan is “Every Life Matters”, and I want to reinforce the point that every life does matter. We are committed to further reducing the suicide rate in Scotland, and I know that that resolve is shared by all of us here today.

Meeting closed at 18:07.