Campaigners and experts are calling for urgent action to stop deaths by suicide amongst young people and men.

Marking World Suicide Prevention Day, the Samaritans charity said deaths by suicide increased by 15 per cent in Scotland last year.

Among young people under 25, the rate went up by 50 per cent, particularly for young women. The suicide rate for under-25s is now at the highest left in more than a decade.

Since 2011, there have been 102 recorded deaths of all ages in West Dunbartonshire as "intentional self-harm" or "event of undetermined intent", including a dozen last year. Neighbouring Glasgow has lost more than 700 lives in that time, 99 in 2018.

Anyone can contact Samaritans for free, anonymous and confidential emotional support, day or night. You can contact Samaritans by phone on 116 123, by email on

Mairi Gordon, from Samaritans Scotland, said: “World Suicide Prevention Day is a timely reminder of why we must continue to make suicide prevention an urgent public health priority.

"Every death by suicide is a tragedy with heart-breaking and far-reaching consequences for family, friends and communities all over Scotland.

"At a time when we’ve seen deaths by suicide increase both here in Scotland and across the UK, it’s crucial that we re-double our efforts to better understand the factors that contribute to suicide and the interventions which can save lives.

"As one of the strongest indicators of future suicide risk, it’s crucial that we improve our understanding self-harm and its impact."

Samaritans said in the next 12 months, they will be focusing on research with young people who have experienced self-harm as well as its link with suicide to help prevent it and offer better support to those who self-harm.

The charity said self-harm is more common for young people, and that more than a quarter of women aged 16-24 have self-harmed at some point in life.

They added that self-harm is a sign of serious emotional distress and while most people who self-harm will not go on to take their own life, longer term self-harm is associated with developing thoughts of suicide.

Young people aged 16–34 are less likely to have contact with health services following self-harm than older people so may not be getting support they need.

Ms Gordon said: "The increase in self-harm amongst young people is extremely worrying and we need a better understanding of what’s causing this trend and how we reverse it.

"Preventing suicide cannot be achieved by one organisation or service alone. But by working together we can take action to address risk factors like self-harm we can realise our shared ambition for a Scotland where fewer people die by suicide and where everyone can get the right support at the right time.”

Professor Rory O’Connor, from Glasgow University, who has studied suicide and its causes for 20 years, said there had been a decrease in Glasgow over recent years, but there remained higher rates of suicide in areas of disadvantage.

He said: "Prevention is a public health priority. We need to tackle inequality first.”

“People feel trapped, could be by social circumstances and can’t see a way out. Alcohol is complicated and can increase risk.

“If you experience early life trauma, you are more likely to be at risk of suicide.”

Anyone can contact Samaritans for free, anonymous and confidential emotional support, day or night. You can contact Samaritans by phone on 116 123, by email on

Prof O’Connor added: “Then there is the role of masculinity. Men are more likely to feel they have failed loved ones and not been able to provide for loved ones.

“Relationship breakdown is a cause and men often have smaller networks for external support, they are more isolated.”

He said that while there are efforts being made to improve services there needs to be a greater urgency in getting people into treatment.

“In Scotland we should be doing more to tackle stigma around mental health," he added. "If it's men in crisis, we include men in planning.

“The bigger barrier is if you present to a GP there are waiting lists. We have to tackle the waiting lists."

Suicide has a personal importance to Prof O'Connor having lost two people he loved.

He said: “Stereotypes are wrong and contributing to the problem. We are trying to encourage help seeking, talk about mental health. We haven’t done enough.

He said: “If you are concerned about a friend or family member, always ask the question.

“There’s no risk to asking someone if they are suicidal, if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts. There is hope even if you are in the depths of despair.

“We know they will end then come and go.

“Please contact someone you can trust.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to work together. Suicide is not about being selfish.”