Sophie Pilgrim: Those with mental health problems must get help

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This Saturday marks World Mental Health Day, hosted by the World Federation of Mental Health, with the theme of ensuring that people with mental health problems can live with dignity.

As a coalition of independent and third sector providers who deal with vulnerable children and young people, many of these require Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Mental health problems provide one of the greatest health challenges of our time, and yet we are concerned that they do not receive the recognition they deserve. Estimates vary, but research suggests that 20 per cent of children have a mental health problem in any given year, and about ten per cent at any one time.

However, CAMHS is under increasing pressure, with a 32 per cent increase in the number of people starting treatment over the last two years. And yet many children and young people with mental health problems, for which early assessment and treatment are vital, are not receiving the appropriate support, considerably reducing their life chances.

As a coalition we are delighted that the Scottish Government has committed an additional £100m in mental health services over the next five years. This is to be partly used to bring down child and adolescent mental health waiting times, with many health boards currently in breach of Scottish Government targets for these.

We are also failing to provide adequate inpatient facilities for children and young people, with the number of children being admitted to non-specialist units such as adult and paediatric wards increasing. This means that these vulnerable individuals may not be getting the attention and support they require.

It should however be noted that this is against a background of less than 0.5 per cent of the NHS budget in Scotland being spent on CAMHS and less than six per cent of the mental health budget. Yet the massive benefits of early intervention are well known, with the health, economic and social costs of mental health problems well established. This is because those affected are more likely, for example, to be unemployed, homeless, get caught up in the criminal justice system, or are in extremely costly long-term care.

There is a need for a revolution as to how we approach those with mental health problems, with a focus on greater investment. On World Mental Health Day we ask you to spare a thought for those with mental health problems, which affect so many people both old and young, and treat them with the dignity they deserve.

Sophie Pilgrim is director of 
Kindred Scotland and a member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition. Marking World Mental Health Day with dignity