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Raising awareness

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A DAD from Lockerbie, who lost his own son to suicide, will join other friends and family members at a switch-on event in Glasgow tonight to highlight the tragic rise in the number of people taking their own lives across Scotland.

Giant images of a green ribbon, the international symbol of mental health, were projected onto the city’s Buchanan Galleries and the SECC Armadillo ahead of World Mental Health Day, today, Thursday October 10, in support of this year’s #SuicidePrevention theme.

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.

Frank Ritchie’s son Alan was just 31 when he took his own life in 2015.

Frank said: “Alan had suffered from depression and anxiety for half his lifetime. He was popular, excellent in his school studies and sport, particularly football – but sadly he always thought of himself as a failure.”

Since Alan’s death, Frank has campaigned tirelessly for mental health charities to raise more awareness of the greater need for support for mental health problems, and to give practical advice on how everyone can all help someone they are concerned about.

The projections also aim to highlight the fact that suicide is preventable, and that both government and wider society must continue to work together to save lives, including tackling the root causes of mental distress in young people.

Toni Guigliano, from 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 iexperiences 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.”

For support, call the Samaritans on 116 123.

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