Improving mental health must be a priority for any Government, without question. It is estimated that around 10% of children and young people in Scotland have mental health problems that are so significant they impact on their daily lives. And evidence shows that early intervention provides the best outcomes in terms of treatment. This is why it is absolutely important that we improve child and adolescent mental health (CAMH) provisions in Scotland.
The Scottish Government have a set target for CAMH services, and that is 18 weeks. Sadly, however, 608 young people have waited more than a year for mental health services since 2015. And on top of this, more than 9,000 young people have been referred for treatment only to be rejected. This isn’t good enough, and we can and must do more to make sure that adequate CAMH services are provided for everyone that needs them in Scotland.
I believe that if we work together, we can deliver for children and young people across Scotland. No one wants any young person to have to suffer without adequate help. Scottish Labour would like to see a review of all rejected referrals for a start, to see why so many young people haven’t been getting the treatment they seek.
Further to this, there should be guaranteed access for every secondary school to a qualified and appropriately experienced school counsellor. That way we can begin to tackle mental health earlier and make sure that a support network exists to ensure help is there when needed. There are also third sector organisations that specialise in such services, but they too have seen major cuts in their budgets as a result of the SNP cuts to local councils.
I hope the Scottish Government take these concerns seriously, and is able to listen to what is happening and is willing to take the necessary action to help CAMH services be in a position to help young people when they need that help and support.
I also take the view that the SNP Government must make a wholesale change in its economic approach to public services.
In the last five years the SNP has cut over £1.4bn from schools and local services according to the independent experts at the Scottish Parliament’s Information centre. That austerity agenda has a major impact especially on the most disadvantaged in our communities.
SAMH’s recent ‘Worried Sick’ report on the experiences of poverty and mental health stated that “Socio-economic deprivation is a key factor in determining health outcomes for people across Scotland, and it is clear from decades of research that poverty can be both a determinant and a consequence of poor mental health”.
It is therefore a matter of public health for the SNP Government to halt its programme of austerity, by using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share of tax and stop the cuts to schools and local services.