Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie, has today highlighted the party's 'trail-blazing' plans for investment in mental health.
Mr Rennie joined volunteers and therapy animals from Canine Concern's 'therapet' programme in Edinburgh today to discuss how their work is already helping to support people across the capital suffering from mental ill-health.
During the therapet session Mr Rennie set out the Scottish Liberal Democrats' 5 step plan to invest in mental health.
Mr Rennie’s announcement follows confirmation from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg this morning that boosting mental health services would be a red line for the Liberal Democrats in any coalition negotiations following the election.
Commenting, Willie Rennie MSP said:
"One in four of us will suffer from mental ill health at some point in our lives. Yet for far too many people this is still a taboo subject, and the poor relation of physical ill health.
"In England Liberal Democrats have put mental ill health on an equal footing with physical ill health, but in Scotland the SNP Government has resisted our calls to do likewise. Our mental health services remain the Cinderella services of our NHS.
"Scottish Liberal Democrats will call time on this national shame. Our trailblazing plans to enshrine in law the equal treatment of mental ill health with the same seriousness as physical ill health will be a starting point.
“It will ensure that anyone needing support and treatment gets it when and where they need it.
“But in each of our eleven held seats, voters face a clear choice. Only the Liberal Democrats have set out clearly how we will deliver an £800m boost to Scotland’s NHS.
“This boost will revolutionise the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.
“This funding could ensure emergency departments have mental health specialists ready to help people suffering from mental ill health at the time they need it most. It could tackle the shortage of resource in CAMHS units which have resulted in 250 young people waiting over a year for treatment.
"It could tackle the rise in admissions to non-specialist paediatric mental health wards. It could allow us to address support to talking therapies so that GPs have the confidence to refer people.
“It would mean that people with mental health problems can get on with living their lives. Our mental health plan would help build a stronger economy and a fairer society.”
The Liberal Democrat 5 step plan for mental health would:
- Continue to tackle the stigma around mental ill health, setting out in primary legislation in Scotland that mental and physical ill health should be treated equally.
- Supporting good practice amongst employers and helping those with mental health problems to get the support they need to get into or find work.
- Increase access to talking therapies through increased investment in mental health services, particularly those for young people ensuring that they are able to get the specialist help and support they need close to their home.
- Introduce mental health specialists at A&E departments across Scotland.
- Establish a world-leading mental health research fund, investing £50m to further our understanding of mental illness and develop more effective treatments.