New Mental Health Strategy published

Date: 3rd April 2017
Category: Mental health, Health and health services

The Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt, launched the Scottish Government's new 10-year Mental Health Strategy on Thursday 30th March.

Mental health and children's charities have given a cautious welcome to the Scottish Government's new ten-year mental health strategy. A number of organisations questioned whether funding would match the ambition laid out in the document.

In a statement to MSPs, Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said the 40 actions in the strategy would focus on improving access to services and earlier interventions, and give mental health the same prominence as physical health.

These include the recruitment of 800 extra mental health specialists to work in both acute and primary care services, reviewing school guidance services and an audit of instances when referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHS) were rejected.

"The strategy is just a first step," she said, "and I believe working with stakeholders and with MSPs across the parliament it can be built on in the years to come."

There will be a biannual meeting of stakeholders to chart progress, she added.

The Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH) said the document "lacked ambition and investment", while the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland said clarity was needed on how the actions would be delivered.

The Scottish Recovery Network said pressures on council and health board budgets would make achieving the aims of the document challenging.

Billy Watson, chief executive of SAMH, said the strategy was "long overdue" but said he was "disappointed it lacks the ambition and investment that Scotland deserves, especially for children and young people".

Investment in broader mental health education was needed, he added.

"CAMHS does the job of supporting young people with a mental health diagnosis but GPs, teachers and parents need more options when presented with a young person who is mentally unwell," he said.

Frank Reilly, director of the Scottish Recovery Network said the Government needed to look beyond NHS services to create mental health resilience.

"We would encourage the Government to think wider than traditional mechanisms for achieving this to ensure that the people of Scotland have the skills they need to support mental health recovery before they encounter waiting lists for services," he said.

A number of children's charities also expressed concerns. In a joint statement, Children 1st, NSPCC, Aberlour, Includem, Barnardo's and Action for Children said:

"Whilst there is more of a focus on the role of schools and early intervention there is a distinct lack of detail in the document about what actions will take place to tackle the growing problem of poor mental health in our children and young people."

A lack of timetables and accountability was also concerning, the charities said.

"We need to see national leadership now to ensure policy commitments are matched by adequate and sophisticated public investment in people, resources and relationships to support the delivery of preventative services and promote positive emotional wellbeing and resilience."