Mental health's waiting game

Written by Tom Freeman on 9 September 2016

News this week that 934 children had contacted Childline last year because they were contemplating suicide was sobering, to say the least. 

It followed statistics showing a rise in the number of children and young people accessing mental health services.

Monday's Holyrood magazine will have an exclusive interview with Maureen Watt, the first dedicated mental health minister in any UK nation. She told me she saw the rise in children using services as a positive thing, because it reflected the fact people were comfortable talking about mental health.


Rise in children using mental health services

'Serious concerns' over Scottish Government's mental health strategy

While there is some truth to this, health boards are not meeting targets for young people waiting to be seen. In yesterday's FMQs Nicola Sturgeon admitted there were "hundreds" still waiting more than 52 weeks for treatment. 

Waiting times are only "the tip of the iceberg" said Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.

"Since January last year, more than 9,000 Scottish children have been referred for mental health treatment, only to have that referral rejected or denied. We do not know why. I say to the First Minister that I am sorry, but I do not consider that to be a positive development," she said.

Both the FM and Watt insist that the establishment of a dedicated minister is proof they are taking mental health seriously. Prevention is the order of the day, they insist.

But while the language is progressive, and having a person there to be specifically accountable is a positive development, campaigners have pointed to the fact the new 10-year strategy bears a striking resemblance to the old one, and there is yet to be any detail about how things can be moved on.

Real transformational change will only take place with the involvement of the very people who suffer from mental ill-health. Too often they are disenfranchised, or waiting too long for treatment. 

Tom Freeman


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