Comment: Work needed to hit mental health targets

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Scotland is one of the few countries in the world with a waiting time target on psychological therapies. This ambition is welcome; all too often mental health is left behind. While setting up this target and developing new systems has involved a great deal of work we’re now nearing point of delivery and need to start seeing the results.

The target of 18 weeks is due for delivery from December 2014 and the most recent figures show that around 82 per cent of people across the country are being seen within the 18 weeks. However, while this is a great start there is still more to do. There has been little change since the previous quarter’s statistics were released and SAMH urges health boards to do more to make the targets a reality. Performance across the country varies with some areas getting it right while others are lagging behind. Lothian is seeing 73 per cent of individuals within the specified 18 weeks, which is below the national average. The island health boards are mostly doing well and Glasgow is achieving 90 per cent while Forth Valley is only managing 55 per cent. We need to see more consistent performance.

At SAMH we know from our Know Where To Go campaign research many people find it difficult to talk about a mental health problem. More than a quarter go more than a year after developing concerns before they seek help. Having done so, given that mental health is a priority for the NHS, they might expect to be treated with urgency. Finding that having plucked up the courage to ask for help, you may have to wait for four months or more to begin treatment can be both distressing and detrimental to their mental health.

Long waits can make an existing mental health problem worse, damage relationships, stop you working and have an enduring effect on your life. We know the investment will pay off. For more information or for help with mental health problems please visit

Jo Anderson is the director of external affairs for SAMH (Scottish Association of Mental Health)