Demand for emergency mental health services has increased three-fold in the Capital over the past decade as soaring numbers of people come forward for help with issues including anxiety and depression.
The Edinburgh Crisis Centre was set up in 2006 to provide prompt access to residential mental health care, as well as round-the-clock support by phone, text and email.
New figures show that 392 people contacted the charity-run centre for emergency help between 2007-8, against 1561 people last year. The number of visits for one-to-one support rose from 138 in 2007-8 to a peak of 760 in 2013-14, before dropping to 620 last year.
Long-term user Binal Lanakhi said the Leith centre had saved her life on a number of occasions.
The 51-year-old was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was just 18, and has struggled for years with insomnia and suicidal thoughts.
Binal, of St Leonards, said: “I have been in and out of hospital so many times, but hardly ever in the last eight years, since I started going to the centre.
“When you are in hospital they usually treat your symptoms rather than the causes of the problem.
“At the centre they talk to you before things get really bad.
“I don’t sleep very well and it is the only place you can call in the middle of the night and get someone to help you.
“Sometimes you don’t need much more than that but it is good having that safety net.
“It’s definitely so much less stressful than being in hospital. You know these people and they know you.
“When you are really unwell, it is like coming out of the frying pan and into water.”
The number of overnight stays at the centre has also increased from just 35 in the 2007-8 to a total of 325 nights last year.
Centre manager Barrie Hunter said more people should be aware of the service, which is the only one in Scotland to offer round-the-clock mental health support. He said: “There is constant demand for support from the Crisis Centre.
“It is not unusual that we get several calls in the space of a few hours from people who are extremely distressed and need support immediately.
“Despite this I think there are still lots of people who don’t know we are here.
“We are the only mental health crisis support service in Scotland where you can ring up and get face-to-face support, potentially on the same day, and stay overnight if you need to.”
Nigel Henderson, chief executive of the mental health charity Penumbra, said: “A mental health crisis is an extremely difficult thing to experience and it is vital people can access support quickly.
“Here in Edinburgh people can contact the Crisis Centre, but it is really concerning that similar provision isn’t available across Scotland, particularly in our big cities.”
The Edinburgh Crisis Centre is funded by NHS Lothian and the city council.