Access to mental health services limited by lockdown
Almost half of people receiving mental health support pre-lockdown feel they are now not getting the care or treatment they need, according to a new survey.
The SAMH study found 43 per cent of those asked felt they had missed out on care due to the coronavirus pandemic, while 45 per cent said the quality of treatment had become worse and less frequent.
Additionally, the survey found the pandemic and restrictions were having a negative impact on the mental health of those already struggling.
The number of people who said they were coping “very” or “quite badly” doubled from 23 per cent at the start of the year to 45 per cent in August.
Billy Watson, the chief executive of SAMH, said: “While there have been steps to increase the capacity of mental health services, we now require an ambitious and well-resourced plan to redesign a system that was already under stress before the pandemic. Failure to do so will put lives at risk.”
A key driver of the uptick in people struggling is the confusion around priority of NHS services, with some respondents to the survey suggesting the ‘Protect the NHS’ message had discouraged them seeking help.
Others have been left waiting for specialist support after parts of the health service was put on pause at the start of lockdown.
Service user Michael said: “I’ve struggled with my mental health for 10 years, but the past year has been particularly bad. I was referred for psychiatric treatment in early March and was told they would see me again soon.
“The ironic thing is shortly after that appointment I was watching the Scottish Government’s lockdown announcement and it said there would be funding for mental health, so I felt reassured support would continue.
“A few days later a letter arrived to say I wouldn’t be seeing my psychiatrist anytime soon. It’s September now and I haven’t heard anything since. I feel like I’ve been left high and dry.”
The SAMH findings are the first of three rounds of research on the impact of coronavirus on people with mental health problems. Two further studies will be released by the end of the year.