Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday, 14 February 2005

Missing Highlanders - the scourge of suicide

I have just been watching a documentary on BBC Scotland in their 'Frontline Scotland' strand, entitled Missing Highlanders. The programme was about suicide in the Highlands, which is more prevalent in this part of Scotland than elsewhere in Scotland; the suicide rate in Scotland is already considerably higher than in the rest of the UK. Specifically the programme dealt with the particularly high incidence of suicide amongst young[-ish] males. Unfortunately there does not seem to be an online link to an article about this programme and the BBC Frontline Scotland website appears not to have been updated recently.

The programme focussed on a few of the [many] such suicides which have happened in the area recently, including four during last year, all of whom were friends and members of a local football team. Some other cases were discussed also, but the programme did not attempt (rightly) to cover every suicide - there have simply been too many for a 30 minute programme to cover.

The programme carried interviews with the parents and some friends of various of the suicidees, as well as with a local MSP and the local NHS Trust. The usual "he was a happy boy" or "he had been troubled and turned to drink and/or drugs" were heard, but various of the participants seemed to place blame on the local psychiatric care some of those who had committed suicide had turned to for help. In some cases no outside help had been sought at all. The point was made that many males, and Highland Scots in particular, are reticent or completely unable to talk about any personal 'issues' that may be troubling them.

I have no knowledge of any of the cases discussed, but one word that was conspicuous by its absence from this programme was homosexuality. Another curious absence from the programme was any mention of the Samaritans (or the local Inverness branch), the national and worldwide organisation (with associate groups) which seeks to provide emotional support, specially to those contemplating suicide. I have no idea whether homosexuality has been considered as a possible factor in at least some of the cases which have occurred locally (but not mentioned on-screen so as not to 'frighten the horses'), but from my own personal experience, both as an individual and in some of my charitable voluntary activities over the years, it is unfortunately often a very major factor (amongst others), specially in relation to suicides by young males.

Alcoholism is apparently more prevalent in this part of Scotland than elsewhere, too and many of those who have committed suicide (but not all) were known to have been suffering from depression, but as was pointed out in the programme the underlying causes were not known.

In addition to the word 'homosexuality', I'd like to mention a few others which occur to me and which were also not mentioned during the programme: 'religion', 'Bible belt', 'repression' and 'closed mindedness'.

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