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Pilot support scheme launched for families bereaved by suicide

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Published on 12/08/2021

Families who suffer “pain and trauma beyond words” after being bereaved by suicide will be helped under a new service providing practical and emotional support.

Initial pilots will run in Ayrshire and Arran and in the Highlands NHS health boards to support those who have lost a loved one, with the scheme run by Scotland’s National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG).

The Scottish Government has given £510,000 for the pilot which will see specialist staff support families seven days per week for up to two years.

Seonaid Stallan, who lost her 18-year-old son Dylan and sister-in-law Vanessa to suicide within weeks of each other five years ago, has been involved in designing the scheme.

She said: “It is impossible to describe the devastation, grief and confusion that we felt as a family.

“There was no support offered to families in our position and we relied on each other and close friends to try and navigate the complex practical arrangements as well as our own grief.

“No-one had ever asked us how we were coping.

“This service offers a vital lifeline for families bereaved by suicide and may even save lives.”

The highly trained staff running the scheme can recognise risks and wider safeguarding issues, including signs of suicidal ideation, with evidence suggesting up to one in 10 people bereaved by suicide may try to take their own lives, according to the NSPLG.

The charities Penumbra and Support in Mind Scotland, who already support about 3,300 people every week, are involved in the programme.

Frances Simpson, chief executive of Support in Mind Scotland, said: “Losing a loved one to suicide brings pain and trauma beyond words, and we know that people who have been bereaved need compassion, understanding and specialist practical support, not just in the immediate aftermath, but for many months after.

“Support in Mind Scotland is proud to be part of this vital new service and will work closely with our partners in Penumbra to make sure every bereaved person knows that they are not alone and that they receive the help they need, when they need it.”

Kevin Stewart, Minister for mental wellbeing and social care, said: “Often those bereaved are left with unanswered questions and unresolved issues on top of dealing with their grief.

“I am pleased that the Scottish Government, as part of our work to deliver on our Suicide Prevention Action Plan, is funding this crucial pilot service to support those bereaved by suicide.”

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