Scotland’s leading mental health charity is calling for “radical action” in order to combat the growing mental health crisis in the country.
The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) has said not enough is being done to help those struggling to access mental health support in Scotland, as the pandemic has seen people’s mental wellbeing “challenged like never before.”
The charity has launched a manifesto, Standing Up for Scotland’s Mental Health, based on feedback from 2,500 people, setting out its priorities for the next Scottish parliamentary term.
Among their recommendations for change, the charity is calling for redoubled efforts on suicide prevention, with action to support children and young people and rapid access to psychological wellbeing support for adults.
Despite a £4million investment to recruit Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) workers across Scotland, one in five children referred to specialist mental health services are still being turned away.
The charity also notes that a quarter of those referred for psychological therapies have to wait at least four months to be seen, while deaths by suicide have risen over the last two years.
Billy Watson, Chief Executive at SAMH said: “There have been too many promises on mental health and not enough action. With the added pressure brought about by the pandemic, we need a radical new plan.
“We must now, more than ever, see political and government commitment to make mental health a priority.
“That’s why today SAMH is launching our manifesto, urging the next Scottish Government to put the mental health of the nation first. It’s time to listen to the hopes, fears and needs of people with mental health problems.
“The next Scottish Parliament will see many new MSPs, as well as experienced members returning for a further term. We hope we can rely on each and every one of them to Stand up for Scotland’s Mental Health.”
Standing Up to Scotland’s Mental Health manifesto reflects the real life experiences of people across Scotland.
Stephanie, 19, struggled to access the support she needed through CAMHS.
She said: “After being put on the waiting list for CAMHS, it was many months before I was contacted and learnt that I’d have to go through a whole process to actually be seen.
“Eventually I ended up being rejected as I was on holiday when the letter came in about arranging my first appointment.
“There was a deadline that you had to get in contact by to arrange this but because I was away I ended up missing it. I got in touch but the only support and advice they could give was for me to go through the full ordeal again.
“I felt helpless and had no idea what I was supposed to do. I was reaching out which is what they said to do, but I was still being shut down. I was terrified and I didn’t know what was going on. I was thinking, ‘What if I don’t get the help, what will happen to me? Will things get worse?’
“It felt like a really big ball of emotions. The whole referral process just felt exhausting. It took a further toll on my mental health and how I dealt with it in the future, and I became closed off once again.”
The research and experiences which lie at the heart of the SAMH campaign shows that when people are given the support they need quickly, they can flourish.
After a suicide attempt, Robert, 39, reached out for support. This led him to ‘The Changing Room’, a SAMH project which uses the power of football to get men in their middle years talking about mental health.
He said: “Early on I remember thinking I’m worth my place in this group, not only is it helping me feel better but I’m going to be part of making other people in this group feel better. I felt like I was worth a lot, and for a long time I didn’t feel like I was worth much.
“Local community support is so important because shared experiences help, having someone you can relate to from a similar background makes it much more organic.”
“Many people feel isolated when they are having suicidal thoughts, I had family all around me, but I still felt isolated, because no one knew what was going on, so then being around people who understand what you’re going through can really make a big difference.”
To find out more about SAMH’s Standing Up for Scotland’s Mental Health campaign, click here.
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