Youngsters requiring help from specialist mental health services have been kept waiting for almost 2.5 million days longer than they should over the last four years.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats discovered those on the waiting list for help from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) had waited a cumulative total of 2,486,265 days over the target time since April 2017.
Health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said that showed the need for “transformational investment” in mental health services.
He spoke out after the party used Freedom of Information laws to obtain data from health boards on the total number of days children had waited over the 18-week target for the period 2017-18 onwards.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Children needing mental health help in Scotland have been left waiting 2.5 million more days than they should have. That’s a scandal.”
Waiting time figures published at the start of December showed almost 1,000 youngsters have been waiting more than a year for a CAMHS appointment.
The figures released by the Liberal Democrats also show increased wait times over the years, with children and young people waiting 274,954 days more than the target time in 2017-18 – which had risen to 1,127,735 days so far in 2020-21.
Mr Cole-Hamilton warned: “The next major public health problem coming down the tracks will take the form of mental health problems, and these statistics prove we’re not ready.
“The system is under immense strain. For years vulnerable children across Scotland have been subjected to harrowing long waits for help.
“The pandemic and the backlog in appointments it has caused will only make this mountain harder to climb.
“We desperately need to see transformational investment in Scotland’s mental health services.
“Our NHS staff do an incredible job, but they need more money, staff and resources behind them to make sure this runs smoothly and no-one falls through the gaps.
“Behind each of these numbers is a family wracked with worry about a young person who is not doing well. The Government has a duty to invest in this and ensure they get help when they ask for it, not many months later.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was working closely with NHS boards to “plan the recovery of CAMHS services across Scotland and to help individual NHS boards respond effectively to the anticipated increase in demand in the months ahead”.
She said: “We have provided an additional £15 million to local authorities to respond to children and young people’s mental health issues, with a focus on those brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Part of this funding will also support local authorities to develop and implement community mental health and wellbeing services and supports. These new support services will be available for 5-25 year olds, their families and carers.
“This is the start of a long-term commitment to provide a new type of mental health support alongside psychological services provided through CAMHS.
“This funding is in addition to ongoing annual funding to support the recruitment of an additional 80 mental health professionals to work with children and young people in CAMHS services across Scotland, and our recent announcement of a further £3.6 million to help provide more than 80 additional counsellors in every college and university in Scotland over the next four years.
“We are also ensuring that every secondary school will have access to a counsellor.”