Improving mental health treatment for young people

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to meet a brave young woman who told me about her experience of mental ill health.

Only a few years ago she was suffering from depression and following a break up from her boyfriend she considered suicide.

What happened next was horrible. She was told by a doctor at accident and emergency that she was a drain on the NHS.

No support, no treatment, just a lecture.

The way we talk about mental ill health has improved massively in recent years and I don’t believe for a second that these unacceptable views are held widely within the NHS. But this example shows that there is still a long way to go.

For too long, mental health has been something of a Cinderella service in the NHS in Scotland. The share of the NHS budget that we spend on treating mental ill health has fallen year on year in real terms since 2009.

The impact that this has had is clear to see.

If you take mental health services for children and young people (CAMHS) as an example, in some parts of Scotland just one third of young patients are able to access the treatment they need within the Scottish Government’s waiting time target.

Some children have been forced to wait more than a year to see a specialist. This is just not right.

It must feel like a lifetime for children and their families.

Others have been forced to travel hundreds of miles to see a doctor because there are no dedicated mental health beds for children north of Dundee.

This is why today I confirmed that Liberal Democrats will go into this election with a clear commitment to doubling the funding we put into CAMHS.

This will help us improve access to treatment and open two new specialist centres serving the north of Scotland in Inverness and Aberdeen.

We want to see a step change in the way that we treat mental ill health in Scotland. Providing this funding boost will be a vital first step in the right direction.

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