The next Scottish government needs to tackle mental health problems with a “radical” new plan, campaigners have insisted.
The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) has made a string of demands ahead of May’s Holyrood election.
It says those elected into power must make mental health a real priority.
The charity has published its Standing Up For Scotland’s Mental Health manifesto – which it said had input from 2,500 people.
SAMH chief executive Billy Watson said: “Scotland’s mental health deserves better. A growing number of people across the country are facing mental health problems and are struggling to access help.
“There have been too many promises on mental health and not enough action. With the added pressure brought about by the pandemic, we need a radical new plan.”
SAMH wants more work to be done to reduce the number of suicides, following an increase to 833 such deaths in 2019 – a rise of 6% from the previous year.
The manifesto calls for a “10-year strategy to enable systematic change that reduces deaths by suicide”, as well as urging a new, national self-harm strategy is drawn up.
SAMH said action is also needed to ensure people with mental health problems can get help quickly, with about a quarter of those accessing psychological support currently having to wait more than four months for their first appointment.
The charity is demanding a programme of investment to increase the NHS psychology workforce by 50% by the end of the next parliamentary term – saying this would bring staffing levels in line with those in England and Northern Ireland.
It also wants to see a “significant increase in funding” to GP practices so 15-minute appointments become standard – with SAMH pointing out GPs are often the first point of contact for those struggling with their mental health, and one in five appointments are said to be linked to problems such as anxiety or depression.
The charity also wants the next government to ensure children and young people can get help at the first time of asking without the threat of rejection.
While it said the coronavirus pandemic led to a 55% reduction in referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), it added one in five of those being referred “continue to be rejected from support, and left with little to no help for their mental health”.
SAMH is also calling for an immediate end to automatic transition to adult mental health services at the age of 18, saying young people should instead be able to choose when they make this switch “so that it causes as little disruption to their lives and their recovery as possible”.
Mr Watson demanded: “We must now, more than ever, see political and government commitment to make mental health a priority.
“That’s why today SAMH is launching our manifesto, urging the next Scottish Government to put the mental health of the nation first.
“It’s time to listen to the hopes, fears and needs of people with mental health problems.”