Meeting of the Parliament
Meeting date: Thursday, February 2, 2023
- General Question Time
- First Minister’s Question Time
- ME Services
- Portfolio Question Time
- Budget (Scotland) (No 2) Bill: Stage 1
- Decision Time
- Male Suicide in Scotland
Male Suicide in Scotland
The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-06977, in the name of Jim Fairlie, on male suicide in Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament is concerned by Scotland’s suicide rate and the latest statistics showing that 75.03% of people who died by suicide in 2021 were men, continuing a long-term trend whereby men are more likely than women to take their own life across all age groups; notes that in Perth and Kinross, during 2017-2021, the overall rate of suicide was 16.8 per 100,000, which is higher than the national average of 14.1 per 100,000; understands that suicide is a complex behaviour and there is rarely a single factor involved, but that there is strong evidence of associations with financial difficulties and mental health; is concerned, in the midst of an ongoing and deepening cost of living crisis, by the statistic from Samaritans Scotland, highlighted at a recent Cost of Living Summit, that men living in the most deprived areas are up to 10 times more at risk of suicide than those living in the most affluent areas; welcomes the Scottish Government’s 10-year strategy to tackle the factors and inequalities that can lead to suicide; commends groups such as Andy’s Man Club that offer a safe environment for men to talk about issues and problems that they have faced and are currently facing, and notes the view that, by discussing this issues openly, MSPs can follow what it sees as this good example, which could have an effect in reducing existing stigma and encouraging people across Scotland to have important conversations addressing their mental health.17:07
First, I thank the many members who have stayed tonight to support the debate, especially given that it is being held on a Thursday evening at very late notice.
The band Stereophonics wrote a song called “Local Boy in the Photograph”, and there is a lyric in it that has always touched me very deeply. It goes:
“And all the friends lay down the flowers
Sit on the banks and drink for hours
Talk of the way they saw him last
Local boy in the photograph”.
Every one of us in the chamber has at least one local boy in the photograph. When Kelly Jones wrote those lyrics, he was writing about a 23-year-old lad called Paul David Boggis. He described him, saying:
“he was a really cool kid and he was a good looking kid. He was kind of one of those ones that you looked and thought, ‘He’s got it all.’”
For me, Neil, Deano and Gav all had their times, and I can remember when I saw each one of them. I saw Neil as he and I were talking when a very beautiful young lady walked across the road on Perth High Street. He remarked on how beautiful she was, and I then told him that we were actually a couple. That beautiful young lady was to become my wife, and we had our kids. I have often reflected on that moment, because it always struck me that we were two young guys in our 20s, with it all out there in front of us, and so much to come, and I think about where our lives then took us.
Neil was a good-looking guy, full of fun and outward confidence, and he had a great voice. He would sing in the pub where I used to work on a Sunday—his voice was amazing. All his close pals called him “Fluffy”, and I never thought to ask why, but afterwards I always wished that I had asked. I bet that they would sit on the banks and recall why they called him Fluffy, and laugh at whatever it was that brought about that nickname.
With Deano, we were all on a tartan army trip. Deano’s fancy-dress outfits were legend. Members can just imagine some European city being invaded by marauding hordes of tartan-clad Scotland fans, singing songs, drinking copious amounts of local refreshments and having loads of fun as the locals stared on in wonder. They would see Deano, dressed up as either the Pink Panther, Spider-Man or a gorilla, lowping around and entertaining folk wherever he happened to bump into them—I mean that quite literally. He just made folk laugh.
Deano was also a great football player. I played alongside him at school, although I have to point out—for all the guys in Perth going, “Aye, right, Fairlie”—that I was never a great football player. He was the guy who drove everyone on, with a steely determination to win every ball and every game. He was a year younger than me at school, but on the park he was someone I genuinely looked up to and admired.
I met Gav for the last time in Tesco, and he was raging against the injustice of what the Tories were doing. He had not long lost his dad during Covid, and I was telling him about how ill my dad was, having contracted it and then taken delirium. We were talking about how we would get back to normal, whatever that was going to be, and we parted in very good spirits, both talking about our absolute determination that things were going to get better and we would be an independent country—sorry, guys.
Gav was that paradox: a flawed, tortured guy who was immeasurably kind, funny and generous to a fault. He was also a fabulous musician. He had an immense stage presence and could play like a demon, and he had a voice that just exploded out of him. He was Neil’s friend, and they played together in the same pub that I spoke about earlier. There might have been a gap of nearly 30 years between the loss of each of them to suicide, but each loss had the same devastating effect on those who were closest to them. Quite simply, it should never have happened.
At Gav’s funeral, his best friend, Roddy, told me that he had spoken to Gav in the week before he died. He had reminded him of Fluffy’s funeral and said, “If Fluffy knew the effect his death had had on folk, he would never have done it.” Even knowing that, and having lived through the pain, Gav still could not stop himself from doing it.
I have been in contact with all the families of these guys, and they are okay with having their loved ones spoken about in the debate, because they know that the way that we help to tackle this horrendous, needless loss of life is not to hide from it or stigmatise it but to talk—and talk loudly and often—about it so that those who need help know that help is there.
That brings me on to what we do about the risk of death by suicide and the means of allowing us to prevent it. According to Public Health Scotland records, the number of deaths by suicide has fallen slightly overall, but it is still stubbornly high, and men outnumber women, with men being three times more likely than women to die by suicide. The reasons for people taking their lives are complex, but many of those who die are known to mental health services before they are lost.
In Scotland, men in the most deprived areas are three times more likely to die by suicide than those in the most affluent areas. Financial stress is a critical cause of male suicide so, with the current cost of living crisis, we have to be more vigilant than ever, because suicide is still the highest killer of men under the age of 50.
Although we have to talk about those statistics, it is, for me, more important to talk about how we help to make things better. The Government has a policy in place—I will leave it to the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care to speak about that—but there are other things that are vital in helping men who are in crisis. One is Andy’s Man Club—if members have not heard of it, they can use this debate to find out what it is. It is a fantastic organisation that was born out of the tragic loss, once again, of a 23-year-old, Andy Roberts, who died from suicide in Halifax in 2016. His mother and brother-in-law set up Andy’s Man Club, with the catchphrase, “It’s okay to talk”.
The Samaritans is another fabulous organisation that is doing great work, as it has done since I was a boy. My mother used to be on late-night phone calls from folk who were in real distress, so this is not a new problem.
What do we do? In our position as MSPs, we have a role in ensuring that the conversation continues tonight and tomorrow, and continuously, so that more lives are saved. It is critical that we raise awareness and remove the stigma of suicide so that we can talk about it openly. I intend to organise a reception in Parliament later in the year so that we can bring folk together and do as much as we can to continue the conversations that will help to save more lives.
I thank Mr Fairlie for bringing the debate to the chamber. Does he welcome the intervention of Motherwell Football Club and its community trust? The club raises suicide awareness on its strips and has done much in the area where I live and where, unfortunately, I know many people who have succumbed to suicide. Does he welcome the initiative of Motherwell Football Club to encourage people to talk?
I absolutely welcome that and encourage every football club throughout Scotland to do exactly the same.
We should treat tonight’s debate as just the start, because there is more to do as the parliamentary session progresses so that there are not more families and friends talking about the local boy in the photograph.17:15
I commend Jim Fairlie on his moving speech and his important campaign on the subject.
Police officers are Scotland’s everyday heroes. They deal with people who are dangerous and who abuse them, threaten them, spit at them and attack them. They deal with people who are vulnerable, anxious, unpredictable and a risk to themselves and others. They are there at the darkest of times. When death occurs, it is police officers who see the bodies of adults and children. Some of those people have died of natural causes, while others have been the victims of extreme violence or horrific accidents. Then there are those who end their own lives. It is police officers who must knock on doors and tell families that their loved one has gone. It should be no surprise, therefore, that many officers end up in a dark place.
In my past life as a journalist, I investigated a number of suicides of police officers, the majority of whom were men. I discovered a strange reluctance by the authorities to ask questions. Nine months ago, I asked Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority how many officers had died from suicide. They said that they did not know. The SPA later said that there was nothing to suggest that any of the recent cases were caused directly by work pressures. I disagree.
There is readily available evidence that some of the officers whom I had inquired about were subject to protracted work-related difficulties. Their friends tell me that, although suicide is complex, some of those officers were under serious and sustained pressure and were consumed by a process that they felt was unjust. One officer who twice came close to ending his own life told me that there is a clear link between some suicides and the policing culture, including its disciplinary processes.
I asked the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service how many of those suicides had been the subject of a fatal accident inquiry. The answer was none—not a single one. It is worth noting that every death in custody is rightly the subject of an FAI. Evidence is assessed. Facts are established. Judicial scrutiny is applied. Mistakes, wrongdoing and systemic failings can then be identified and put right. Why is there a lack of curiosity when a police officer dies from suicide? I believe that there are two main factors. The first is respect for the dead and their grieving relatives, friends and colleagues. The other is perhaps less easy to understand.
Some officers believe that some people in authority do not like to ask questions that might yield uncomfortable answers about the pressures that are placed on officers by the organisation, their role and the more general lack of support for those in need. One officer described the lack of FAIs as “nothing short of disgraceful”.
Some of that might sound shocking or, perhaps, unpalatable, but it needs to be said. Although, with the help of debates such as Mr Fairlie’s, there has been a transformation in the way in which we in society understand and talk about mental health, it is clear that more—much more—still needs to be done. Officers deserve greater understanding and more support. I am afraid that, if the authorities maintain their blinkered approach, there is a risk that more officers will die.17:19
I thank Jim Fairlie for securing this debate about male suicide. It is okay to talk about suicide. As a country, in our communities and with friends and loved ones, we simply cannot say enough, because talking openly about suicide opens the door for people to get the help that they need.
In recent years, there has been a sizeable shift in the number of people, particularly men, having those conversations. It is encouraging to see the change in attitude among younger men about what are perceived as acceptable masculine norms. I am sure that most of the mature men here would agree that, when we were growing up, it was not unusual to hear expressions such as, “man up”, “boys don’t cry”, or “toughen up”. We were taught that crying, talking about our feelings or showing our emotions was weak and was not the manly thing to do. That toxic masculinity is becoming more and more a thing of the past.
That is great news for men, because we all feel overwhelmed by difficult emotions or situations at times. Over time, suppressing emotions, or a lack of openness about our mental health, only make things progressively worse, leading to a range of mental and physical problems, including anxiety, depression, stress, aggression and violence, or to the use of alcohol or drugs to try to block out our feelings.
As we have heard, in 2021 there were 753 deaths by suicide in Scotland. Although that is the lowest number since 2017, the figure attributed to men remains disproportionately high. The question remains: how do we tackle the inequalities that can lead to suicide and help the men who are most at risk? Just as there are many paths to finding the right support and feeling better, so there are a number of factors that contribute to men considering suicide.
We have heard about the fantastic Andy’s Man Club, and its peer-to-peer support groups. The approach of that group, and of others like it, works well because men go along when they need to and are ready to. For some people, that might be every week or every other week, while for others it might be once a month. There is no set eight or 12-week programme that ends suddenly and leaves people feeling lost. The club provides a safe space for men to talk about whatever storm they may be going through or have been through. Chances are that there will be other men in the room who have been through similar, if not identical, storms, and they will support each other to get through it.
In Kirkcaldy, we are fortunate to have not only Andy’s Man Club but the Pete’s Man Chat movement, which was launched in 2020 by Pete Melville after he had helped some of his own friends through tough times. The group offers men who feel that they have nowhere to turn a safe space where they can talk about their problems. The rise in groups such as those is a clear reflection of the progress that has been made in breaking down harmful stereotypes of what it means to be a man or how real men should deal with their problems.
I will share the story of a local business owner who described in his own words his experience of attending an Andy’s Man Club support group:
“Two years ago I was really struggling, my life was in turmoil for no apparent reason—I have a great family, brilliant job, and no real worries. Things were getting on top of me. I couldn’t sleep and was losing interest in the things I love, and eventually my GP diagnosed me as having a nervous breakdown. For the first time in 25 years I was off my work and so uptight, restless and emotional—I tried various things to try to help but nothing worked for me ... When I left that first meeting ... I sat in my car and cried for an hour and a half, it felt like the world had been lifted from my shoulders. Without a doubt AMC saved my life. It is an amazing group of brothers which has helped me move forward ... Guys can just show up, there are no booking in or referrals. They can come and go as they please with no pressure. The hardest part will be walking through the doors for the first time, but they won’t look back after they do.”
We know that normalising the conversation about mental health and suicide in order to remove the stigma works, and we know that talking works—we have seen the benefits. We must carry on talking and must continue to promote conversations such as the ones that we are now having in our communities. It is estimated that every life lost to suicide has an impact on between six and 135 people, including families, friends, acquaintances and colleagues, as well as first responders. The evidence also shows that people bereaved by suicide are at greater risk of experiencing suicidal ideation and of attempting suicide themselves.
Just this afternoon, a good friend of mine posted a poem on Facebook:
Men break down.
Men get anxiety.
Men feel insecure.
Men have emotions.
Men have mental illnesses.
It’s not ‘unmanly’ to struggle.
Let’s support men.
Let’s encourage men.
Don’t belittle or silence men.
Men struggle too.”
Educating people about the risk factors and warning signs and about how we can reduce and prevent stigma about men’s mental illness and suicide can make a real difference, so let’s keep Scotland talking.17:25
I start by thanking the member for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire for securing this motion for debate in the chamber today. I was happy to sign it in support and I commend him for a moving speech that really hammered home how important the issue is in our society. We often hear about public health emergencies and crises and, in my opinion, male suicide is a public health emergency that is often overlooked.
It is a public health emergency that disproportionately affects certain age groups more than others. It severely impacts on people from more deprived socioeconomic backgrounds, and it drastically impacts on men more than women. It is vital that we understand why that is the case, but it is more important that we put in place tangible and measurable policies to deal with what is clearly an enormous problem. Those policies will require a whole-Government approach. We cannot simply view male suicide as a health problem and leave it to the health directorate to solve.
As Samaritans says, suicide is rarely caused by one thing but we do know that it is often an inequality issue and that there are strong associations between financial difficulties, poor mental health and suicide. We all know that the cost of living crisis is hitting working people hard and causing serious difficulties for millions of people who might otherwise never have experienced financial hardship. That should be a real cause for concern.
As Samaritans has reported, from August 2022 to October 2022, more than one in every 14 calls to its helpline were about concerns related to finance and unemployment—the highest level for at least five years. Between January 2022 and September 2022, its data shows that more than 100,000 emotional support contacts mentioned finance and unemployment concerns.
When we combine all those factors and consider the evidence and the data, that shows the impact that financial hardship can have on men, on those from particular socioeconomic backgrounds, and on those of certain ages. It is the recipe for a perfect storm.
As legislators and policymakers, we need to be alert to that and that is why today’s debate is so important. We often throw metaphorical brickbats at each other across the chamber, but today’s debate gives us the chance to come together and say as one Parliament that the issue requires not only a cross-Government response but a cross-party response that will have to encapsulate policy change in our public health system, our education system, our justice system and our housing and social security systems. Such a response will be required to get to the root cause of the fundamental inequalities that are engrained in our society and it will have to bring people together in the spirit of openness and transparency.
In that spirit of openness and transparency, and in an attempt to show that this is a crisis that does not discriminate and can impact on anyone, I will briefly share my own experience. Members will be aware that I lost my seat as a member of the House of Commons in 2019, and less than three months later we were in a national lockdown with no end in sight. I live alone and, after just a few months, I found myself relying on benefits to make ends meet. I was doing some volunteer work with a couple of different charities that were helping asylum seekers who were living in hotel accommodation in Glasgow, and I was working with Peter Krykant at the unofficial overdose prevention centre in Glasgow’s Trongate. Every day, I was seeing people who were living on the very edge having been forced there in many cases by Government policies, whether drug or asylum related, and it took its toll.
There were times when I would be going home to my flat alone, staring at the four walls, struggling to see an end to the lockdown and failing to see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel. There was no positive destination in sight after various job opportunities fell through. At times, it felt as though there was nothing more ex than an ex-MP. My mental health was really suffering. There were times when I did not care whether I was alive or not.
I did not have an immediate feeling that I was going to do something deliberate to end my life, but there was certainly an ambivalence about whether I wanted to continue living. My self-esteem and sense of purpose were at rock bottom. It was only thinking about the impact that it might have on my family and friends that held me back.
I do not say this for sympathy and I certainly do not say it for attention. I simply say it to raise awareness and illustrate how quickly things can turn and how quickly people can be impacted who might never have felt feelings like that before. No matter how secure, happy or successful someone might seem to be, it does not take much for those pillars of support in life to collapse. The resulting trauma and despair can be all too tragic for many people, and we have heard today how it affects them.
I once again congratulate and applaud the member for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire for bringing the motion to the chamber today. I assure him that he has an ally in me and I will work with him and anyone else to bring about an end to an often-overlooked crisis in our country.
I call Emma Roddick, who joins us online.17:30
I am grateful to my colleague Jim Fairlie for raising such an important issue and doing it so powerfully. That was a cracking contribution and I am glad to hear that he has support in the chamber. In his motion, he asks us to discuss the issue openly. He certainly did that and it is something that I always hope to do.
The statistics on male suicide are overwhelming, and it is clearly a gendered issue. It is also a deeply personal issue for me, having been bereaved by male suicide at the age of four. I understood more than many do about depression and what it can do to people before I even learned my times tables.
I also had an early insight into what the idea of idyllic Highland life masks. Folk hear about the beautiful scenery that we have here, and how Orkney or Inverness are the happiest places to live, and they imagine a peaceful, joyful life free of stress and sadness. I love the islands, Ross-shire and Inverness, but suicide rates in the Highlands, Orkney and the Western Isles are the highest in the country.
Male-dominated jobs such as farming, fishing and forestry, which are important sectors in the Highlands and Islands, also have some of the highest suicide rates. Last year, Change Mental Health shared with me a survey that showed that four fifths of farmers under the age of 40 consider mental health to be the biggest hidden problem facing the agricultural community.
Perception might only go so far, but I worry about what the flashy tourism lines say to those who are suffering. A quiet view of a loch and the feeling of being alone in nature can be wonderfully relieving for someone who is content. When they are depressed, it can be isolating to the point of being deadly. When someone sees the news articles claiming that the area that they live in is the happiest place to live, and that does not match up with their emotions, they can feel as though they are wrong. They might think “Well, if I’m here, and I’m unhappy, I won’t ever be happy anywhere”.
I can see views across Inverness from the window next to me here, and I have always loved the sight of its skyline. Seeing the tower of Raigmore hospital and the four red lights at the top of the Kessock bridge, whether I am coming up the A9, through Culloden on the train, or from over Nairn way, has always meant that I am almost home. As a kid, it meant that we were about half an hour away from Alness and possibly that it was time to stop for a takeaway.
Recently, however, I look at those sights and wonder whether another human is in accident and emergency at Raigmore or out on the streets in intense, overwhelming, crushing pain, being talked to by a police officer and going through that internal struggle of desperately wanting it all to be over versus that nagging human instinct to survive.
I know that discussions are on-going about what can be done to prevent travel route closures in the Highlands because of concern for people, but we need to be clear that that is not just an issue for the transport portfolio. We need to make sure that folk can access the mental health help that they need.
One final thing I want to raise is the comment that Jim Fairlie’s motion rightly makes about the link between deprivation and mental illness and suicide. The problem with accurately measuring rural deprivation in my region in a way that allows us to successfully compare it with that in urban areas has never been solved, and we know that there are folk in really difficult situations living in areas that the Scottish index of multiple deprivation will tell us are doing quite well. Poverty is harder to see, and perhaps easier to ignore, in sparsely populated areas. Constituents tell me constantly that they are more likely to try to keep it quiet in communities where everyone likes to know everyone else’s business.
We have to do more to tackle male suicide rates, but it is clear that the problems and solutions will be different in rural and island communities.
My thanks again go to Jim Fairlie and all who supported his motion. I look forward to the minister’s reply.17:34
I thank Jim Fairlie for lodging his motion and giving the emotional speech that he gave, and I thank the families of Neil, Deano and Gav for allowing Jim to talk about their story today. I recognise how much of a loss those guys are to Jim and many others. In his speech, David Torrance talked about the impact of suicide on friends and families, but entire communities can be affected by suicide. That is why suicide is everyone’s business.
Every suicide is a tragedy that has a profound and devastating impact on people’s lives. Although the number of people taking their lives has fallen in the past two years, we are determined to do more to further reduce suicide deaths in Scotland, because there are still far too many.
In October last year, I asked members to support the new 10-year suicide prevention strategy from the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which has a vision to reduce suicide deaths in Scotland while tackling the inequalities that contribute to suicide. As Mr Fairlie’s motion says, deprivation is a key risk factor for suicide, which is why the new strategy, called “Creating Hope Together” sets out how we will tackle the social determinants and inequalities that increase the risk of suicide by taking a whole-government and whole-society approach. Mr Sweeney mentioned that in his speech.
In practice, that means that we are integrating suicide prevention with key programmes of work, such as those on child poverty and homelessness. The strategy goes beyond that. We must look right across Government, at every aspect of everything that we do. Despite being a former building standards minister, I had never really thought about what building standards or planning can do to help decrease the number of suicides in our country. I have learned that there is a role for every minister in getting that right, and I am really pleased that colleagues have co-operated with that strategy and recognised that we all have a contribution to make in reducing suicide.
The minister says that every minister has a role to play. He is probably aware of the good work done by the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution, which was founded in order to assist cases of hardship and poverty in rural Scotland, particularly among farmers, who may not see another human being for months at a time. That institution does great work to reduce financial pressures and perhaps to reduce suicide too. Will the minister work with Mairi Gougeon to consider how we can continue supporting RSABI in its good work?
I will, of course, talk to my colleague Mairi Gougeon about the issues that Mr Ewing has raised. I recognise that those in rural communities, or who work in farming, often have difficulties that have not been talked about enough. Last night, I spoke to Emma Harper, who is a member of the cross-party group on rural policy. The subject of last night’s meeting was mental health in rural communities. We all have work to do in promoting what we are doing, continuing to reduce stigma and getting people to talk about their own experiences.
The new strategy prioritises key parts of the workforce, including those who work in rural pursuits. We are working with the money advice sector so that we can reach and support people who are at higher risk of suicide when experiencing financial distress. Let us be honest: there is a lot of financial distress out there at the moment. That approach is all the more important during a cost of living crisis, because that is having a significant impact on people’s lives.
Does the minister agree that great work is being done by the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association? Without getting political, I hope that he will have a word with the Deputy First Minister to see whether the money that was removed from the association’s funding can be reinstated, because it does a lot of good work that contributes to this area.
I had a discussion last night with my colleague Tom Arthur, whom I believe is in discussions with the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association. I should say that, right across the country, that organisation has benefited greatly from the adult communities mental health and wellbeing fund, and I would ask that it continues to use third sector interfaces to apply for funding for local communities.
The cost of living crisis is creating enormous strain across our communities, and poverty has a huge impact on mental health. People who are already struggling with poor mental health and money worries are likely to be among the hardest hit, which leads to rising levels of anxiety and distress. That is why we are taking actions to mitigate some things and ensure that we get to our most vulnerable citizens.
We have put £15 million into the adult communities mental health and wellbeing fund in 2022-23. It is so important that we continue to invest in that, because the stories that I have heard from organisations and individuals who have benefited from that funding are pretty immense, and it has made a real difference. One important protective factor against suicide is social connection, and I am delighted that the fund has helped in that regard. A lot of work focuses on adults who are socially isolated and lonely, and the fund has supported a range of projects that focus on men, including Ewen’s Room in Lochaber and Man On Inverclyde.
I also want to touch on peer support, which is central to the new strategy. A number of folk have mentioned Andy’s Man Club. In recent months I have met Andy’s Man Club and visited Men Matter Scotland to learn about their great work on using peer support to help men with their mental health. In recognising the issues that Emma Roddick brought to bear, I will say that I visited Fort William with Samaritans Scotland. We have a project with it in west Highland that aims to support the mental health of isolated workers in remote areas. What I have taken away from all those visits is that peer support can give people—particularly men—a deep connection that not only offers personal support but can create a pathway to recovery.
That peer support is also prevalent in work that is going on in football clubs—including, as Ms Adamson said, Motherwell Football Club—and through the changing room project, on which we are in partnership with the Scottish Association for Mental Health and a number of football clubs across the country. Of course, there is also the great work of the FC United to Prevent Suicide team, which encourages the footballing community in Scotland to talk more openly about mental health and suicide. There are many more organisations that I could mention, but I know that time is against me.
I thank Mr Fairlie for bringing the debate to the chamber, and I thank all members for their contributions, views and experiences. I will take on board what has been said. Mr Findlay talked about the experiences of police officers. Although we have looked at a number of sectors, perhaps we need to do a bit more on that, and we will do that. My door is always open to anyone, because this work needs to be cross party in order to get it absolutely right, and I want that to happen. We all have a role to play in destigmatising suicide prevention and making it everyone’s business, as I said earlier.
My last point is an appeal to everyone in the chamber and to folk right across the country. Often, when ask people how they are feeling, we get a stock response. When I am asked how I am doing, my stock response is, “Fair to middling,” and that is it, but sometimes I am not fair to middling. Sometimes, when you ask somebody twice, you get the true picture of what is going on with them, and that often opens up the opportunity for further discussion to help them to find the right solutions to get over the mental health difficulties that they might be having. Do not just take the first answer—please ask twice. We can all play our part in helping folk and reducing suicide right across our country.Meeting closed at 17:45.
Air aisDecision Time