A leading coalition of independent and third sector children and young people’s service providers has called on Nicola Sturgeon to make mental health a key focus and priority of the newly elected Scottish Government, with a dedicated Minister and a new mental health strategy.
The call from the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), during Mental Health Awareness Week, comes after Ms Sturgeon was re-elected First Minister amid mounting concerns over increasing numbers of those identified with mental health problems. This was most recently reinforced this week by figures released by NUS Scotland on the state of the mental wellbeing of Scottish students.
The statistics show a 47 per cent rise over four years in the number of students trying to access mental health support services. Furthermore, they show that some institutions have experienced a rise of up to 70 per cent in students enquiring about mental health services, while more than one in eight of those who enquired about their mental health did not receive support. 1
The SCSC has highlighted that no longer can mental health be seen as a ‘cinderella’ service and that parity of esteem with physical health is essential. It has also called for greater investment in key mental health services, with more use made of independent and third sector service providers where appropriate to the needs of the child or young person.
Research indicates that one in ten children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, and one in five adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year. 2
Half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 21. 3 Yet services for those with these problems are underfunded and only 0.46% of NHS Scotland expenditure is spent on child and adolescent mental health (CAMHS). 4
The SCSC has highlighted that if funding and resources are targeted at prevention and early intervention this will ensure early diagnosis and treatment, addressing the social and economic costs of allowing issues to embed over time.
A spokesperson for the SCSC, said:
“It is vital that the First Minister makes mental health, especially for our children and young people, a key priority of her new administration. There can be no greater signal to reflect this than a dedicated Mental Health Minister and to give mental health parity of esteem with physical health, with greatly increased investment in mental health services.
“As we mark Mental Health Awareness Week we are sitting on a ‘ticking timebomb’ of mental health problems, simply storing these up for the future if we don’t address them now. We would not expect a child with a broken arm or another physical health problem to wait a year for treatment, or routinely travel hundreds of miles to get the help they need. But all too often, this is the situation facing children and young people struggling with mental ill health.
“Waiting 12 months for treatment must feel like a lifetime to these children and their families. We need a step change in the way that we support young people struggling with mental ill health.
“In the run up to the election the political parties pledged to put mental health front and centre of their objectives. Our newly elected MSPs must now stick to their word and the First Minister should drive this forward, making mental health a key platform of this government. While we welcome what the Scottish Government has already done in this area, it is evident that much more needs to be done to tackle the increasing numbers of young people with mental health problems.”
For further information please contact Alex Orr, Policy Adviser to the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, on 0131 603 8996 or [email protected].
Notes to Editors
1 NUS Scotland, Statistics released 16th May. Available at: www.nusconnect.org.uk/articles/new-figures-highlight-worrying-state-of-scottish-student-mental-health (Accessed 17th May 2016).
2 Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Statistics: Children and Young People. Available at: www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-children-and-young-people (Accessed 17th May 2016).
3 Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Statistics: Children and Young People. Available at: www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-children-and-young-people (Accessed 17th May 2016).
4 ISD Scotland, Child and Adolescent mental health expenditure 2014-15, Scottish Health Service Costs, Report R300, R04LSX and SFR 8.3 (Accessed 17th May 2016).