A mental health support group in Caithness has welcomed news that the county will be first in the north to benefit from funding to support young people’s emotional wellbeing through the pandemic.
They have made a plea for the support to be targeted towards psychiatric treatment above all.
No More Lost Souls was formed in July after a spate of suicides and attempts in Caithness.
The group points out that more lives have been lost to suicide than Covid-19 in the county, currently a ratio of 5:3.
Group founder Steven Szyfelbain, 31, said he was ‘knocked out of his boots’ on hearing that the Scottish Government has awarded Highland Council £534,000 to be spent over the next two years supporting the mental health and emotional wellbeing of 5-24 year olds with issues arising from the pandemic.
Mr Szyfelbain said he has been in a very dark place about how badly vulnerable people are faring during the pandemic.
He said: “Our long -term vision is to fight for a safe and secure mental health hub type area similar to New Craigs in Inverness, using an existing building.
“A more immediate solution would to have a permanent on-site psychiatrist here, someone who knows you, rather than locums.”
Mr Syzfelbain acknowledged that there are a number of local organisations to turn to, but said a dedicated medical facility, close to home would give local people the same chance of treatment as those in the Inverness area.
He said: “Many organisations are 9 to 5, but you can’t choose to have a breakdown within those hours.
“Some sort of 24/7 psychiatric cover would be a huge step.
“We need something at the medical level, someone that understands about the mind that we can have trust and rapport with.
“What we currently have is like a band aid for a gunshot wound.”
Highland Council has also received £178,000 for planning and preparation costs relating to the development of community mental health and wellbeing services for young people during the pandemic.
Highland Council chief executive Donna Manson told councillors yesterday that mental health issues arising from Covid were a priority for the council, working with NHS Highland.
She said: “There has been an honest acceptance by the council and NHS Highland that perhaps the service provision and our response in Caithness is not quite as we would wish it to be.
“This has to be a complete community response, we can’t do it on our own as a council or NHS.”
Mr Syzfelbain said No More Lost Souls would be keen and honoured to work with the council to best target the funds available.