Why this matters to me
I have personally experienced mental ill health - when I had postnatal depression after my daughter was born - so I appreciate how hard it can be and how much it affects everything in your life. Sadly, the more I know about mental health in this country, the more worried I am. Our suicide statistics are frightening. Whilst NHS staff are dedicated to helping treat patients, the demand for services enormously outstrips supply. At the moment, only the most acute cases seem to get timely treatment. This is a vicious cycle, with people with mild symptoms left waiting and just becoming more ill.
We need to offer people a choice of treatment and also take preventative action so fewer people become unwell in the first place. We get a lot of warm words from the SNP Government but sadly action is too little and too late. I will keep campaigning until we see adequate access to resources for all and mental health on an equal footing with physical health.
We owe it to society - especially following COVID-19
Unfortunately it was no surprise that the fear of contracting COVID-19 itself along with the isolated nature of restrictions has fostered an environment for mental ill health. Sadly, people who suffered periods of mental illness before were likely to become unwell again, and others who've never known it have suffered. There's no one who hasn't been touched by this, it goes against basic human nature to separate like this. Health really is the most important thing we can hope for, so we need to do all we can in this recovery to heal as a society and good mental health is central to this.
We can do so much better
There's plenty more we need to do, for instance we need access to counsellors in schools. At the moment the Government is only committed to giving schools access to a counsellor, with no certainty that this means one for every school. Another area we want to see change is suicide statistics. These are only reported yearly, and are published almost a year after that. If we had them more regularly reported, we could track trends and identify patterns more responsively, allowing health boards and Government to react more swiftly and potentially save lives. There's plenty of other preventative action we can take in the community and school environment.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats are championing mental health
One of our achievements in this area is successfully persuading the government to appoint a mental health minister. More recently, our efforts in parliament have forced the government to acknowledge the mental health crisis in Scotland.
Our research has sadly shown lengthy waiting times, including up to two-year waits for children and young people. Our MSPs continue to press the government to explain how they will address the mismatch of supply of services versus demand. These are not new problems, and we must do better to solve them.
- Rebecca Bell, Mental Health Spokesperson, Scottish Liberal Democrats