As summer rolls on, Scotland's Mental Health Partnership has begun to take its next steps following the election and as the pandemic begins to abate...
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic
The data has started to emerge showing a real and significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. Our members report:
Our members report…
Increase in poor mental health – A recent RCGP Scotland survey of members found that 94% of respondents reported that the number of patients presenting to general practice with mental health and wellbeing concerns has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 71% report that this has increased “a lot”.
Lack of support – A SAMH study found people could not rely on getting the support they needed. While the majority (64%) of participants tried to speak to their GP about their mental health during the pandemic, 1 in 10 (13%) were unsuccessful. over a quarter (27%) of respondents also said their specialist treatment or care stopped because of the pandemic.
Stigma – A survey of See Me volunteers during the pandemic asked them about how they felt stigma and discrimination had changed since the start of lockdown. 54% said that the self stigma they felt around their mental health had increased.
Rise in loneliness – New results from the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health in the Pandemic studyshow that psychological distress during the pandemic is having longer-term impacts. Reports of loneliness have nearly tripled from 11 per cent to 29 per cent since the start of the pandemic, with feelings of hopelessness increasing from 15 to 20%.
Our rural communities – work by Scotland’s Rural Mental Health Forum, which is led by Support in Mind, found that 93% of people living in marginalised rural communities in Scotland reported that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
Peer support – In response to Covid-19, the Scottish Recovery Network found many peer support groups went online, with 81% of people found that accessing digital peer support provided meaningful connections with other people.
This has been backed up by the Scottish Government's own Mental Health Tracker:
Around one in ten people reported experiencing suicidal thoughts.
21.4% reported severe depressive symptoms.
32% of respondents reported a high QHQ-12 score, “indicative of a possible psychiatric disorder”.
These issues and more have been highlighted to all new MSPs in introductory briefings, and an offer to meet with them has been made by the Partnership's Policy Lead, Gordon Johnston.
Meeting the new Minister
These and other key issues were raised in our first meeting with the new Minister for Mental Wellbeing & Social Care. Some of the key discussions included:
Stigma – a major feature of discussions was around stigma and discrimination towards people with mental ill health. The Minister recognised that challenging stigma was a critical part of his role.
Staff wellbeing – in response to points around staff wellbeing, the Minister stressed that the pressures clinicians had been under were recognised.
Person-centred, lifespan approach– The Minister suggested a life-span approach to providing person-centred care would be taken, including breaking down systems and barriers that prohibited this.
What needs to happen now?
In 2022, the Scottish Government has the opportunity to deliver more ambitious vision of a Scotland where good mental health and wellbeing is enjoyed by all through a refresh of its Mental Health Strategy. This is due to take place next year.
The first iteration, from 2017, needs to account for our greater understanding and willingness to take action across a “Promote, Prevent, Provide” framework, and to acknowledge the additional need for better support, awareness and care.
That’s why we’re calling on the Scottish Government to commit to and deliver a radical refresh of its Mental Health Strategy next year.
We intend to advocate for this through the following steps:
Engaging each political party on the need for this radical refresh
Consulting our members on what should be prioritised in such a refresh
Securing debates on mental health in the parliament to support MSPs knowledge on the topic
Hosting a parliamentary reception when restrictions allow to allow our members to advocate directly on this issue.