This week is Mental Health Week. The Scottish Liberal Democrats are calling for three new steps to be taken on mental health. We want to support the mental health of frontline health and social care workers. We want to give every workplace in Scotland the protection of a trained mental health first-aider. And we want the Scottish Government to develop a clear plan to catch up with the backlog of mental health services and cope with a surge in new demands coming out of the crisis.
Save lives. Safer workplaces. Get a mental health first-aider into every workplace.
We want the Scottish Government to restart the work of the Scottish Mental Health First Aid programme. This is a scheme that trains ordinary people to be mental health first-aiders in their workplace. We want the Scottish Government to start up the programme now, rather than keep it closed until 30th June. This will mean they can deliver online training for staff, many of who may be on furlough. Scotland can take the opportunity to make workplaces and businesses better places after the crisis by training more people to recognise and support work colleagues with mental health problems.
Catch up with the back-log of mental health therapy.
Lots of people have had their physiotherapy and mental health therapy sessions cancelled during the crisis. There is a lot of catching up to do. The charity Inclusion Scotland has published a survey which shows the anguish being faced by families unable to get the group mental health support they rely on. Many NHS and social care staff will need help to recover from their traumatic virus work. The former Scottish chief medical officer Harry Burns said many children will have had an Adverse Childhood Experience through the crisis. They will need help afterwards. Waiting times for mental health services were already appalling in Scotland before the crisis. So we want the Scottish Government to publish a robust new plan to allow recovery of rehabilitation services and take new steps to meet the new demands on mental health services. People were waiting up to two years for help before the crisis. We can’t have that situation as we emerge from the shadow of the virus.
Protect the NHS. Guarantee NHS and social care staff get the urgent mental health support they need.
Research has shown that about half of the frontline workforce will experience a diagnosable anxiety or mood disorder during the crisis. Government needs to make sure they get the mental health support they need. We asked the Scottish Government for a helpline for health and social care staff with expert trauma support and this service started last Monday. Good news. Now we want a guarantee that health and social care staff will get the immediate help they need without any delays after they have been in touch with the helpline. It will keep staff safe and protect the NHS from unexpected staff absences.