Wishart calls for ‘immediate action’ to address young people’s mental health needs

Speaking in a Holyrood debate this afternoon, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart called on the Scottish Government to take “immediate and material action” to respond to young people’s mental health needs.

The debate on ‘Mental Health Support for Young People in Scotland’ came as government figures published today showed just 60.6% of children who started mental health treatment in the quarter ending September 2020 did so within 18 weeks

Ms Wishart said that the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially to education, had created “a perfect storm for anxiety and isolation” and that it’s “blatantly clear that, with the current workforce levels, the system cannot cope.” Ms Wishart highlighted evidence received by the Education Committee raising questions about the quality and coordination of school based counselling services across the country. Ms Wishart called on government to increase the mental health workforce, ensure those in frontline teaching roles are trained to identify mental health issues, and restart the Scottish Mental Health First Aid programme.

Commenting, Ms Wishart said:

“There is a mental health crisis in Scotland. That was true before the Covid-19 pandemic. Too many young people are waiting too long for CAMHS mental health treatment. Once again, Scottish Government figures released today show well over a thousand waiting over a year. It’s heart-breaking to see children struggle at the back of some of the longest queues in the entire health service. This is just the tip of the iceberg, many young people will need early intervention to address issues before they become a bigger problem. That’s why quality school-based services are essential.

“Earlier this year, Holyrood’s Education Committee heard evidence of a fragmented school counselling system. There was no quality assurance, no coordination, no profile of demand. We still don’t know if the Scottish Government has met its target for all secondary schools to have access to counselling services by the end of October 2020. We need immediate and material action to build the mental health workforce, making sure those who work in the frontline roles like teaching are given training they need to process and understand the issues children and young people are facing.”

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