Supporting young people’s mental health is crucial, particularly through prevention and early intervention. On average, one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life and 50% of mental health illnesses develop before the age of 14. Around one in ten children today have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem.
I pay tribute to the work of the NSPCC and its ChildLine service, which last year provided more than 295,000 counselling sessions for children and young people, many of whom are experiencing issues relating to mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
As you may be aware, health is a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament. As such, the UK Government’s green paper on Children and Young People’s Mental Health applies to England only.
It was recently reported that more than a quarter of children in Scotland are not being seen within the 18-week waiting time target, with some young people waiting more than a year for treatment. It is clear there is a growing child mental health crisis in Scotland, alongside a lack of ambition and urgency on the part of the Scottish Government. I share the frustration of parents, charities and teachers surrounding child mental health access and provision.
Last year the Scottish Government published its Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027. There are actions within this strategy that I welcome, such as the managed clinical network; additional mental health professionals for our A&E departments, GP practices, police stations and prisons; and a commitment to young carers. However, I am disappointed that the Scottish Government has ignored calls for investment in school-based counselling and wraparound early intervention support in schools. I believe it is vital that children and young people should be at the heart of the 10-year mental health strategy.
At last year’s General Election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to ensure all secondary schools in Scotland have access to a qualified and appropriately experienced school counsellor, providing accessible counselling to young people who need it. I am proud that these plans for improving mental health treatment for young people are supported by Barnardo’s Scotland.
In general, I also support the Scottish Association for Mental Health’s (SAMH) call for a 10-year plan for improving mental health services, alongside the principle of “ask once, get help fast.”
My vision is for a Scotland where mental health is given the same priority as physical health.