Why this matters to me
The Liberal Democrats have long argued that there is no health without good mental health, and that resources in the health system need to support this. As a mental health counsellor working with all ages across the private, third sector and the school system I know that early intervention can make all difference to a good outcome and timely access to services either in the city or in rural areas is critical.
I became more politically active as my work showed me not only how underfunded and sparse resources are in our communities but importantly the positive impact accessible mental health support can have for us all. Sometimes the chatter around mental health doesn’t communicate what powerful change comes from supporting and empowering individuals to live a full life. The Liberal Democrats want this opportunity for all.
Too often I hear that someone has sought help only to be referred to services that are full, or placed on a waiting list that far exceeds the 18 week target waiting time. The SNP government have paid lip service to the importance of mental health. Yet they have seen evidence that public health in Scotland can be improved by attending to mental health and that chronic health issues can often be linked to mental health challenges. They still fail to put in place sufficient resources to impact this.
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 to do. 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. I know from experience a counsellor in school can be transformational for both pupils and staff.
We want to see further government funded training for mental health first aiders in all businesses to ensure that anyone in distress knows where to turn, Suicide rates in Scotland remain too high, particularly in men and by embedding support in the workplace we create another safety net.
There's plenty of other preventative action we can take in the community and school environment. Those on anti-depressants should also be offered access to therapy, whilst other areas of support could include community-based groups, supported access to physical exercise and mentoring. Our excellent health teams know what needs to be done, we need to listen and act.
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 and to increase the spend.
Our research has sadly shown lengthy waiting times, including waits of over year for children and young people to be seen by specialists. 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.
- Jane Alliston, Mental Health Spokesperson, Scottish Liberal Democrats