Suicide prevention continues to be a priority for the Scottish Government. In our recently published “Mental Health—Scotland’s Transition and Recovery” plan, we set out an evidence-based suicide prevention response to the pandemic. In partnership with our national suicide prevention leadership group, we recently launched the evidence-based united to prevent suicide campaign. We continue to work with the NSPLG and stakeholders on suicide prevention. The work is focused on examining differing models of suicidal crisis support, sharing best practice and restricting access to the most common means of suicide. The work also includes taking forward the four priority actions for a pandemic-specific suicide prevention response, as recommended by the group in its Covid-19 statement, which includes work to improve real-time suicide and self-harm data in partnership with Public Health Scotland.
The minister will be aware that I have three universities and a number of further education colleges in my constituency that have thousands of students. What increased mental health support is being offered to students in Glasgow Kelvin? In light of indications of worsening mental health in that age group, will people in my constituency and across Scotland continue to be able to access applied suicide intervention skills training to help prevent suicides?
Now, more than ever, it is of the utmost importance that our students are able to receive the mental health and wellbeing support that they need. We are actively considering what additional targeted support is needed for students, to support their mental health and wellbeing. On 22 September, the Scottish Funding Council announced a further £3.6 million in support of our commitment to provide more than 80 additional counsellors in colleges and universities in Scotland over the next four years. That builds on last year’s investment and good progress has been made by institutions in putting those counsellors in place. We have also funded NUS Scotland to host think positive, Scotland’s student mental health project, which supports students experiencing mental ill-health, tackles stigma and discrimination, and promotes wellbeing in colleges and universities across Scotland.
The applied suicide intervention skills training—ASIST—is currently not being delivered, because it cannot be carried out face to face due to Covid-19 restrictions. To support the needs of the health and social care workforce during this period, pandemic-specific learning resources were developed by NHS Education for Scotland that give support on responding to people in distress and crisis and on mental health and suicide prevention.