Giant images of a green ribbon, the international symbol of mental health, were projected onto the Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow last night ahead of World Mental Health Day (Thursday 10 October) in support of this year’s #SuicidePrevention theme.
Families and friends touched by suicide came together at the switch-on event to highlight the tragic rise in the number of suicides across Scotland, which claims two lives each and every day – a total of 784 in 2018.
Recent figures highlighted that Scotland now has the highest suicide rate in the UK, and the green ribbon projections will raise awareness of the devastating rise in the number of people taking their own lives in Scotland over the last year, particularly the rise in the number of young people under 25, which had risen to 96 – its highest level since 2007.
Lizzie Stewart from Dumbarton lost her son Lee to suicide in May this year. She said: “On 14th May 2019 this year we started as every day does, as a normal working family. We went off to work, school and college. By 4.00 pm my whole life had been ripped apart. Lee had decided to take his own life.
“My opinion since this has happened to our whole family is that children of all high school age should be taught as part of their curriculum about mental health wellbeing/suicide prevention and suicide impact. Mental ill health and suicide do not discriminate against gender, race or age. It can affect anyone at any time and more needs to be taught to our young generation that it is okay to feel low and not know why.”
Nicola Frew from Shotts’ brother-in-law Graham took his own life in June, aged just 30 years old.
She said: “On the 30th June we were left devastated when my sister Natalie’s partner Graham Fraser passed away, leaving behind an incredibly loving family and his beautiful daughter Hannah age one. We will never know why and that’s what is really hard to understand. All we now want to do now is try and help raise awareness in the hope we can prevent any other family ever having to go through the pain we have. “
The images also aimed to highlight the fact that suicide is preventable, and that both government and wider society must continue to work together to save lives, including are tackling the root causes of mental distress in our young people.
Toni Guigliano, Policy Manager at Mental Health Foundation Scotland said: “Scotland’s increasing suicide rate is both concerning and devastating. We now have the highest suicide rate in the UK and the number of young people taking their own lives has risen to its highest levels since 2007.
“Our society is increasingly priding itself on self-reliance, families and communities are further apart, job insecurity is rising and our young people are under extreme pressures to succeed. These societal pressures are taking their toll on our mental health and both Scottish and UK Governments are not doing enough to give people the social safety net they need in times of hardship.
“We’ve repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to introduce mental health education in the school curriculum, building on the experiences of Finland and Ireland, to give young people the coping skills they need to navigate life’s ups and downs.”
“But preventing suicide is not limited to health services – it’s everyone’s business. Each and every one of us can save a life by starting a conversation, particularly if we suspect someone is going through a difficult time or if we notice a change in behaviour. We don’t need to be experts in mental health – we just need to become better listeners.”
Mental Health Foundation Scotland is asking people to help raise awareness by wearing a green ribbon – it can be worn to begin much-needed conversations, and to let people know they are not alone. At the event, staff from MHF Scotland will be handing out green ribbons to members of the public, as well as cards giving advice on how to support someone you are worried about featuring the WAIT acronym – Watch, Ask, It will pass, Talk to others.
The SECC Armadillo in Glasgow and St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh will also feature the ribbon projections to raise awareness.