We strongly support the findings of the Scottish Youth Parliament’s report, which reveals the scale of the epidemic in mental health problems for young people. Like the Children’s Commissioner, Tam Baillie, we echo the urgent call for a greater focus on the mental health needs of our vulnerable children and young people.
As a coalition we have campaigned strenuously to highlight the scale of the problem and the urgency at which steps must be taken to ensure that we, as a country, are doing all that we can to help children and young people with mental health problems and remove the stigma surrounding this issue.
As we know, half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75 per cent by the age of 21. However, only 0.46% of NHS Scotland expenditure is spent on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), amounting to 5.81% of the total mental health budget. This is simply not good enough.
Mental health problems are not ‘just a phase’ that the young person concerned will ‘grow out of it’. Problems are likely to get worse over time if young people are unable to access effective help and treatment. Indeed, some young people are waiting months, even years before they are treated.
Mental health must be no longer be seen as a ‘Cinderella’ service and a renewed focus on early intervention and preventative measures will go a long way in helping with the crisis we currently face. With this regard we commend the Scottish Government for appointing a dedicated Mental Health Minister, a post we campaigned hard for.
We are in the middle of a mental health epidemic suffered by Scotland’s children and young people and the issues identified in this report must be an absolute priority for the Scottish Government and Parliament.