DEATH rates from 'probable suicide' in East Ayrshire were higher than the Scottish average last year, according to newly-published statistics.

Figures released by the National Records of Scotland reveal that East Ayrshire was one of only four Scottish council areas where the local death rate outstripped that for Scotland as a whole over the five years from 2018 to 2022.

The mortality rate from suspected suicides in the Ayrshire and Arran health board was also higher than for Scotland as a whole.

The other Scottish council areas with a mortality rate higher than the Scottish average for 2018-2022 were Highland, Dundee City, and Perth and Kinross.

For Scotland as a whole the suicide rate for 2022 rose slightly to a total of 762 probable deaths – nine more than in 2021.

However, the number of suicides in Scotland has been fairly steady for several years.

The rate of suspected suicides in males was almost three times as high as the rate for females, with 556 male deaths compared to 206 female.

However, male suicides decreased by nine compared to 2021, while rates for women increased by 18.

Meanwhile, NRS data showed those in the most deprived areas were more likely to die from suicide, with the mortality rate 2.6 times higher than in the least deprived.

The deprivation gap for suicides is 1.8 times higher than all causes of death in Scotland.

At a local level, the death rate was higher than the Scottish average in local authority areas: Highland, Dundee City, East Ayrshire, and Perth and Kinross.

Mental wellbeing minister Maree Todd said extended her “heartfelt sympathies and deepest condolences” to those who had lost a loved one to suicide, adding: “It is important to take a moment to remember each of the 762 people who died by suicide last year.

“Every suicide is a tragedy with a far-reaching impact on family, friends and the wider community.

“Our aim is for any child, young person or adult who has thoughts of taking their own life, or are affected by suicide, to get the help they need and feel a sense of hope.

“Our ambitious suicide prevention strategy is underpinned by significant investment of £2.5 million in 2023-24, and a commitment to double suicide prevention annual funding to £2.8 million by 2026.

“The Scottish Government is working with all key national and local partners to ensure that people with urgent mental health care needs get the right help, in the right place, at the right time, no matter where they live.

“Our joint suicide prevention strategy with Cosla, Creating Hope Together, sets out our plan to reduce the number of suicides whilst also tackling the inequalities which contribute to suicide.”

The strategy, she said, was supported by a three-year action plan focusing on the creation of “high quality peer support groups” for those impacted by suicide, as well as pointing to pilots in NHS Highland and NHS Ayrshire and Arran relating to bereavement support.

The minister also urged those feeling suicidal to contact their GPs.

Daniel Burns, head of vital events statistics at NRS, said: “While today’s statistics show a small increase in the number of suicide deaths, the rate of mortality in the last number of years has been fairly steady.

“The longer term trend show that over the last 30 years the rate of suicides for males is around three times as high as the female rate.

“Over the last two decades, the average age of death has increased from a low of 41.9 years in 2000 to 48.2 years in 2022.

“The figures also show that the rate of suicide in the most deprived areas in Scotland was 2.6 times as high as in the least deprived areas in Scotland.

The latest comparable statistics for the rest of the UK are yet to be released, however, in 2021, Scotland had the second highest suicide death rate in the UK after Northern Ireland.

Jo Anderson, director of influence and change at the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), said: “It is heartbreaking to learn that Scotland lost 762 people to suicide in 2022, nine more than in the previous year.

"Every death by suicide is a tragedy, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of the people we have lost too soon.

“Following positive progress in reducing deaths by suicide in Scotland, today’s figures appear to indicate that progress has plateaued.

"Worryingly, wider pressures mean the number of people experiencing suicidal thoughts could further increase in the coming years – unless we act now.”