Lib Dems mark World Mental Health Day

10th October every year is World Mental Health Day.

This is a cause that is very close to Lib Dem hearts. We were talking about it long before it became mainstream. We understand the impact of poor mental health and when Norman Lamb was health minister in England during the coalition years, he did so much to improve access to mental health care, particularly for young people.

In Scotland we have never been lucky enough to have a Health Minister who actually gets it. And things are getting worse.

A GP gave evidence to a Holyrood Committee this week saying that referrals to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service were being rejected.

The feedback is actually very very consistent, that there is a big yawning gap. Obviously GPs offer universal services and holistic care and I think one of the advantages that we have is that we work very closely with our health visitors and our family and it’s often the whole family that are involved when a child or adolescent has a mental health problem.

But the feeling is still that the bar for referrals is very very high. GPs and I include myself in this, say that they will “think three or four times”, and I’m quoting there, before even considering a referral, and we have high levels of referral rejections.

And I think the other thing about referrals is that we know how damaging it can sometimes be to the person referred and their family if they get a rejection because they’ve often tried lots of other things before they get to us.

In a panel on mental health at the joint Scottish and Welsh Conference yesterday, GP and 2022 Council Candidate Drummond Begg talked about the need to prioritise mental health because the brain was the most important organ in the body.

Alex Cole-Hamilton highlighted that over 40,000 calls to a mental health helpline in Scotland were abandoned.

Figures obtained by Scottish Liberal Democrats through freedom of information requests reveal that out of 129,200 phone calls to the mental health hub, 40,424 calls were abandoned, representing 31% of all calls.

In March this year, the First Minister said that the number of unanswered calls to the Mental Health Hub was “unacceptable”. Since then, over 13,000 calls have been abandoned.

Alex said:

I don’t think anyone among us would say that the last eighteen months have been easy. The pandemic has imposed an enormous mental burden on people who may have already been struggling.

Unfortunately these figures show that many of those who reached out for help didn’t get it. They join the many others who have already been let down by the dearth of mental health support in this country.

The Scottish Government shamefully abandoned the training of new mental health first aiders when the pandemic struck, falling far behind England where online training never ceased.

Scottish Liberal Democrats secured an additional £120m for mental health in the last budget but this is just a fraction of the commitment that is needed if we are to transform mental health treatment in this country.

Mental health is still nowhere near as supported as physical health. This World Mental Health day, we must do better.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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4 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 10th Oct '21 - 1:37pm

    This is a very challenging area but the evidence appears to be that many referrals to CAMHS are rejected as the issues causing concern are not actually caused by underlying mental health problems. For example, many young people who display abuse/violent outbursts are referred to CAMHS as parents seek to find a cause and a ‘fix’ but in many of these cases the route cause is inconsistent and inadequate parenting rather than mental health issues. It may be more effective to have more investment in early Social Work interventions in dis-functional families as a way of reducing the number of CAMHS referrals rather to merely focus on expanding CAMHS provision due to the high proportion of rejected referrals.

  • Brad Barrows 10th Oct '21 - 4:22pm

    Please excuse ‘route cause’ instead of ‘root cause’…

  • Jason Connor 11th Oct '21 - 6:52pm

    I agree Brad the number of social workers have been cut right back and there are far fewer dedicated family social workers. Add to that as far as young people are concerned the lack of youth club provision and disappearance of the Connexions service.

  • Peter Hirst 20th Oct '21 - 1:21pm

    The issue with Mental Health awareness is that most treatments are not very effective. We cannot control our thoughts and so it is what we do with them that is what we should focus on. Understanding the nature of Thought and their temporary nature is the way forward.

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