Scotland’s National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) is launching a youth advisory group – supported by the University of Stirling – to inform and improve policy from the perspective of those with lived experience.
Established by the Scottish Government and COSLA, NSPLG brings together people with lived experience of suicide alongside, academic, professional third sector, and statutory partners to support the delivery of Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan: Every Life Matters.
Stephanie Craig, a member of NSPLG’s Lived Experience Panel, said: “The news of the NSPLG launching a youth advisory group is incredible. Lived experience provides valuable knowledge and insight from people who have direct experience in such sensitive areas.
“Lived experience helps to drive and lead positive change. It allows space for valuable and powerful conversations and it raises awareness and influences policies. We've seen that with the lived experience panel, a group of incredibly brave people who have come together to do this, and our work has been recognised by the World Health Organisation.
“Children and young people are under-heard, not listened to and often disbelieved by society due to their age. They are often underrepresented and due to their age not seen as having enough life experience to pass comment on important topics affecting their life. Children and young people have a unique and powerful perspective because of their age and experiences and we need to listen to them now more than ever. Children and young people are our future, they have a voice and need to be heard.”
National charity Children in Scotland is partnering with the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals Research Unit (NMAHP-RU) at the University of Stirling to recruit, host and manage the new Youth Advisory Group. They will assemble a panel of 12 young people aged 16 to 25 who will meet regularly for an initial period of 11 months to gather and share views to inform future policy.
NMAHP-RU – funded by the Chief Scientist Office for Scotland – has focused on mental health and suicide research for more than 20 years. The launch of the new advisory group comes in the wake of a 2019 review of suicide prevention policy by the University of Stirling and NMAHP-RU which found that policy wasn’t meeting the needs of children and young people. An increasing ask from services is that policy reflects the experience of and the needs of children and young people.
Dr Lynne Gilmour, Research Fellow in NMAHP-RU, is co-Principal Investigator on the group. She said: "We are incredibly proud to be working with Children in Scotland to host and manage the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group's Youth Advisory Group. Suicide is a leading cause of death in children, and we are determined to ensure that the voices of young people are heard as part of the Suicide Prevention Action Plan.
“Listening to young people is vitally important to ensure that the objectives of the plan are meaningful and helpful to children and young people who may need to access help and support for suicidal thoughts and or behaviours.”
The group also benefits from the oversight and management from Professor Margaret Maxwell and Professor Helen Cheyne, both NMAHP-RU at Stirling, with extensive experience of conducting and managing research in relation to suicide and mental health more generally.
Dr Lynne Gilmour is co-Principal Investigator on the youth advisory group.
The launch of the youth advisory group follows the successful establishment of an adult ‘Lived Experience Panel’ set up in 2018-19 to inform the development of NSPLG’s action plan.
Recognised by the World Health Organisation as an example of best practice, NSPLG is hopeful that the youth advisory group is the credible next step to listening to, understanding, and responding to those with lived experience, and also a critical move in helping to address the escalating rates of youth suicide in Scotland.
NSPLG member and children and young people sponsor Fiona Drouet, who founded charity EmilyTest following the death of her daughter, said: “I’m delighted after many months of hard work and commitment that we are now seeing the launch of the youth advisory group. As we know, statistics show a worrying trend of suicide increasing amongst children and young people. We need to listen to them to fully understand the numerous complex challenges they face and the youth advisory will provide a safe and meaningful platform where they can help shape the future of suicide prevention in Scotland. ‘Nothing for them, without them,’ is a phrase I cite often. I am privileged to play a part in this revolutionary work."
The appointment of the youth advisory group aligns with NSPLG’s overriding approach of bringing together academic rigour, lived experience and professional practice to understand the causes of suicide and develop the most effective strategies to support its prevention. This work is underpinned by the belief that no suicide should ever be considered inevitable.
Children in Scotland brings extensive experience of working with young people to ensure their views are heard and that they have the opportunity to be meaningfully involved in decision-making.
Amy Woodhouse, Head of Policy, Projects & Participation at Children in Scotland said: “'It is a privilege to be supporting the development of this new and important Youth Advisory Group. The group illustrates our shared commitment to putting the views and experiences of children and young people at the heart of decision making. It is vital that young people's views on suicide prevention are heard and they have the chance to use their lived experience to improve future policy making in this area. We are really looking forward to working with group members and together with University of Stirling and the Leadership Group, making it a rewarding and positive experience for everyone.”
Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care said: “I am pleased to see the launch of the suicide prevention youth advisory group.
“The Scottish Government sees the incredible value of listening directly to people with lived experience of mental health challenges, to help shape and design our policies and approaches.
“I encourage young people to get involved in this unique group, which I’m confident will help to identify what works well, and what we must do to go further, to reduce suicide deaths in Scotland.”
A spokesperson for COSLA said: “COSLA is delighted to see the Youth Advisory Group for the NSPLG launch. We believe it will have a pivotal role in ensuring we are hearing and responding to young people and their family’s needs in the national approach to preventing suicide. We are looking forward to working with Children in Scotland and the University of Stirling and making Scotland a great place for children to grow up.”