Scotland’s suicide prevention strategy and action plan

January 17, 2023 by No Comments | Category consultation, Our work, Participation in action, Scottish Government insights

Scotland’s new suicide prevention strategy and action plan were published in 2022. We asked Dominic & Oliver from the Suicide Prevention Policy & Delivery Team to blog about how they developed these, and in particular how they engaged with a wide and varied range of people and organisations.

Scotland’s new suicide prevention strategy and action plan

Every life lost to suicide is an enormous tragedy. And every suicide leaves devastating and long-lasting impacts on families, friends and communities.

In September 2022, Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) published:

We also published an

The strategy sets out the vision for suicide prevention in Scotland over the next ten years, underpinned by four long-term outcomes, while the action plan sets out the actions we will take to reduce suicide deaths in Scotland in the next three years.

Our approach to engagement

While our work on suicide prevention is rooted in established international evidence and guidance on suicide prevention, and guided by our academic experts, direct engagement with a range of people and orgasniations was at the heart of our work to develop Scotland’s new suicide prevention strategy and action plan.

We worked in partnership with COSLA and Public Health Scotland to ensure that at each stage we involved a range of key stakeholders.

We were determined that the voices of those directly affected by suicide were at the heart of the strategy and the action plan.

We also engaged directly with a range of partners in different sectors across and beyond health and social care who can play a key role in preventing suicide.

We worked closely with Samaritans Scotland and Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), alongside smaller and more locally-focused organisations. While some of these provided general mental health support, others were more specifically focused on suicide prevention.

This means that people and professionals across the country have helped to co-develop the vision, principles, priorities and outcomes of the strategy and the focus of the action plan.

We planned our engagement in three phases:

  • Our early engagement involved widespread activity across Scotland, including extensive evidence gathering and engagement with at risk groups and communities.
  • We then did some targeted engagement which involved in-depth engagement with specialist organisations and professionals to test thinking around content for draft strategy and action plan.
  • Then we ran a public consultation which was open to anyone in Scotland and asked for views on draft versions of the strategy and action plan.

The first phase: evidence gathering

We wanted to gather as many views as possible. So, we organised a series of online workshops and an online survey between September 2021 and January 2022.

We held 41 online workshops, with some of these having a local focus and the rest a national focus. We offered a variety of workshop styles and locations. This was so organisations, groups and individuals could choose which type of event they wanted to attend. Participants could attend more than one event, depending on what they wanted to focus on.

Our online survey received 190 responses – 162 responses from individuals, as well as 28 responses from organisations working in mental health and wellbeing, children and young people’s services, and social care. At this stage we focused on the current situation and started to identify innovative ideas and best practice. Participants were also asked to identify priority areas for future action. Our engagement events and questions were purposefully open, but we were particularly interested in:

  • suicide prevention
  • early intervention
  • crisis intervention
  • postvention
  • tackling stigma
  • raising awareness
  • capacity building

We also asked:

  • which other policy areas, out with health and social care, should be involved in suicide prevention (such as housing, addiction, poverty…).
  • for examples of effective practice both locally, nationally and internationally.

You can read more about the early stages of engagement in our Suicide prevention strategy development: early engagement – summary report 

The second phase: targeted engagement

The second phase of engagement explored issues raised in the first phase of engagement. This mainly involved academic and professional stakeholders, including NHS and third sector. In this phase we:

  • held roundtable discussions with at risk groups and spoke to mental health leads in each NHS Board across the country
  • had conversations with organisations representing at risk groups and communities
  • Carried out cross-government engagement to ensure policy and delivery areas consider suicide prevention in their current and future work

The third phase: consultation

Our consultation set out a series of questions about the draft strategy and action plan. This was a way to check if people felt the drafts reflected their earlier input, and to seek views on the proposed content of the drafts.

We were looking for views on:

Draft strategy:

  • the proposed vision for the strategy
  • the proposed priorities (which will be the focus of the initial 3 year action plan)
  • the proposed outcomes we are seeking to achieve during this strategy
  • the proposed principles on how we work
  • the proposals for delivering and overseeing the strategy and action plan

Draft action plan:

  • the approach we are taking to link actions to support delivery of the outcomes
  • continuing to build on the current actions from the current suicide prevention action plan – Every Life Matters
  • the new actions we are proposing under each outcome
  • which outcomes and actions you consider should be prioritised

Over 200 responses were received for this consultation, which closed on 23 August 2022.

Collecting views in this way helped ensure that our suicide prevention strategy and action plan has wider reach and impact across a diverse range of people and communities in Scotland.

We are extremely grateful to everyone who took the time to contribute to the development of the strategy and action plan. Your views and experiences have played a hugely important part in shaping our approach. Just as the development of the strategy and action plan has needed input from many people and organisations, so will its’ implementation. Everyone has a part to play in preventing suicide in Scotland.

Support available

Support is always available; the following sources of support may be useful.

Breathing Space

Breathing Space is Scotland’s mental health helpline for individuals experiencing symptoms of low mood, depression, or anxiety, and offers free and confidential advice for individuals over the age of 18. They can be contacted on 0800 83 85 87, 6pm to 2am Monday to Thursday; and from 6pm Friday throughout the weekend to 6am Monday.


Samaritans provide confidential non-judgemental emotional support 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair.  You can contact Samaritans free on short code 116 123 or via email on

NHS24 Mental Health Hub

Telephone advice and support on healthcare can be obtained from NHS24 on the short code 111; the Mental Health Hub is open 24/7.

Tags: , , ,


Leave a comment

By submitting a comment, you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy policy to see how the Scottish Government handles your information.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *