Using ‘lyrics’ to help save lives

A local online campaign to encourage people in Edinburgh to reach out and get the help they need if they are struggling with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts is launching on social media on Monday, 12 April.

‘Lyrics for Life’, created by the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership (EHSCP), has been given the name to encourage those who are struggling with their feelings to use music as a way to connect with others to seek help.

It aims to encourage people to seek the support they need if they are feeling suicidal, find out more about how they can help prevent suicide, and discover resources to help people stay mentally well. Although the campaign will be wide-reaching, it will particularly target those from less affluent areas, people living alone and those aged between 35-54. According to Public Health Scotland, Suicide Stats for Scotland 2019, suicide is a major health issue in Scotland with the highest rate of suicide occurring in the 45 – 54 age group for both males and females.

To help tackle this, the Partnership’s social media campaign will direct people to a new section of their website with information about organisations and other resources for anyone feeling suicidal or for anyone who is looking to find help for someone else. The campaign will also feature on bus stops, courtesy of JCDecaux.

The Partnership has made three powerful videos for the campaign of people affected by suicide, telling their stories and talking about a song that helped them when they were struggling. A playlist is being created of the songs on their  YouTube channel and people are being asked to contribute a song that helped them. This can be emailed to or provided as a comment on the campaign social media posts.

In the hope that ‘Lyrics for Life’ will lead to more people opening up about how they are feeling to health and social care staff, suicide prevention training will be offered to around 1,000 EHSCP staff, targeting specific groups where appropriate.

Judith Proctor, Chief Officer of the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, said:

Now more than ever we need this campaign so we can give everyone access to the right support, if they or someone they know is feeling overwhelmed by life. Sadly, the pandemic has led to an increase in mental health issues as many people’s lives have been affected in so many ways.

Words can carry so much meaning and many people find they can relate to them even more when they’re set to music. This sparked the idea for the campaign – ‘Lyrics for Life’, to encourage people to use lyrics to start a conversation about suicide prevention. We’re hoping the campaign, using powerful videos of those who’ve been affected by suicide, telling their stories, will help everyone think about what they can do to prevent suicide. Our website is full of information and resources to assist with this including how to sign up to the United to Prevent Suicide movement.

It’s important everyone knows they can play a part in suicide prevention and through this campaign we’re trying to make people understand that it’s OK to talk about suicide and help make sure those who need it know where to go to access suicide prevention resources and help. It’s also really important that we all share this information with friends, family, colleagues and clients who may not be online.

We’ve shared the campaign with our staff ahead of it starting as they’re great ambassadors to help us to spread it more widely with the groups and networks they work with. We’re also providing them with appropriate training so they’re well equipped and prepared to help those who come forward to talk about their feelings as a result of the campaign.

Jacqui Walton whose husband died of suicide speaks about her experience and why she chose her song Mr Blue by Catherine Feeny. She said:

Suicide is such an isolating experience – I don’t want other people to go through what I went through feeling so isolated.

Mags Wood who lost her son to suicide speaks about her experience and why she chose her song Run by Snow PatrolShe said:

When you lose someone you are more prone to suicidal thoughts yourself and I admit I have had these – that’s why it’s good to reach out to suicide prevention groups to help you.

Further information

  • There is a known link between deprivation and suicide. The probable suicide rate between the years 2015 and 2019 was three times higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas.
  • The Scottish Suicide Database 2011-2017 tells us that during the period 2011-2017, 5,286 people aged 5+ years died from suicide in Scotland. The average annual suicide rate over this period was 14 per 100,000 people aged 5+.
  • Also that just under three-quarters (73%) were male.
  • Just under three-quarters (73%) were single, widowed or divorced.
  • Almost half (47%) were aged 35-54 at the time of death. The highest numbers and rates of suicide were in this age group.
  • Eighty-eight percent were of working age and, of these, two-thirds (67%) were in employment at the time of death.

The Scottish Government has funded a new movement to prevent suicide in Scotland called United to Prevent Suicide. Informed by the Scottish Government’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan, some of the aims of the movement are:

  • Building a social movement of people with a shared belief in preventing suicide
  • Improving our knowledge and skills in suicide prevention with the development of new learning resources, available to everyone
  • Using digital technology to improve suicide prevention
  • Improving our understanding of suicidal behaviour to inform action to prevent its occurrence