Last week I asked the Scottish Government what work they are undertaking to ensure that enough provision is in place to help those who may be suffering from a mental health problem in the first instance; ensuring that help and advice is available as soon as is possible. Programs such as the mental health first aiders program ensure that in all of our communities there is a body of trained individuals who can help to quickly identify, help and direct those in need to the appropriate support services. The mental health first aiders program is just one example of the steps that I believe we must invest in to ensure that those who may have mental health problems can receive help before those problems become more serious and far more difficult to treat. Early intervention is crucial in helping us tackle the growing number of mental health problems that people in Scotland face and it can make the difference between a quick and successful recovery and an extremely difficult course of serious treatments. The Scottish Association for Mental Health recently reported that in Scotland 25 per cent of people who experience a mental health problem will wait more than an a year before seeking help, and that an estimated 800,000 adults a year do not know where to access help. I therefore asked the minister if he agree that having trained mental health first aiders in all our communities would help to quickly identify those who need assistance and direct them to support services and what the Scottish Government doing to promote the mental health first aiders programme and increase the number of trained mental health first aiders in Scotland? The Scottish Government published a report some time ago supporting the development of mental health first aid which would encourage people to come forward more quickly to access help and support and this is something I am following up given the high numbers of people who suffer from stress, anxiety and depression and could be supported a lot earlier.
The question I tabled last week asked the Scottish Government: “what action it is taking to ensure that anyone who may need help with a mental health problem can access appropriate help easily and receive treatment quickly”.
The Minster responded saying; “We have made significant progress in delivering the commitments in the “Mental Health Strategy for Scotland: 2012-15”. For example, Scotland was the first part of the United Kingdom to introduce a target—from December this year—for speed of access to mental health services. We know that waits of up to one or two years were common before we introduced the targets. We still have further improvements to make, but the latest position shows that the average wait for access to psychological therapies is eight weeks and access to specialist child and adolescent mental health services is nine weeks. I am sure that the member would recognise that that is significant progress”.
You can watch the full exchange below: