Each year, one in four people in Scotland will experience a mental health problem. This can have a profound impact on our physical health, our work and relationships, in turn affecting our wellbeing and quality of life.
For too long, mental health problems have been a taboo subject, and understanding of conditions, how they affect people and how they are treated has been limited. I am pleased that, in recent years, this situation is changing for the better.
Organisations such as the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) have worked hard for many years to eliminate the stigma of mental health, steadily making progress.
Under the SNP, we have made great strides in mental health care. Spending on mental health care has increased by 40%. We have also doubled the number of child psychologists and recently announced a further £50 million investment to improve waiting times for treatment. Last year First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appointed Jamie Hepburn MSP as Scotland’s first ever Minister for Mental Health and here in North Ayrshire, a new £47 million, state-of-the art 206 bedroom integrated acute mental health facility and community hospital is being built at Ayrshire Central Hospital which will open this year and bring together a full range of outpatient, inpatient and outreach facilities that will cover every part of Ayrshire and Arran.
Whilst this is clearly welcome progress, demand continues to increase against a backdrop of resource constraints and we must take action to ensure the long-term viability of service provision while continuously improving patientoutcomes. With that in mind, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set out plans to transform the support available to people facing mental health challenges as part of a strategy to reduce waiting times for treatment, with enhanced child, adolescent and adult mental health services across the country.
Underpinned by the SAMH “ask once, get help fast”principles, the SNP Government - if re-elected - will over the next five years invest an additional £150 million to improve Scotland’s mental health services. We also will work with mental health charities and service users to put in place a 10-year strategy to transform mental health care in Scotland, including for children and young people. That means looking at innovative ways of delivering better mental health services and bringing together healthcare and education to ensure faster treatment without stigma.
Sadly, too many people with mental health conditions experience difficulty when seeking support from the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions. However, with new social security powers to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament from April 2017, we will pursue a different approach; one that has dignity and respect at its heart. We will work to ensure mental health conditions and physical health conditions are treated with parity.
In the years ahead, we will also roll out evidence-based employability programmes across Scotland to assist those with mental health issues but feel that working is or would be beneficial. We will also take action to identify and target those most at risk of committing suicide, such as men between the ages of 30-50 and those living in poverty - this an issue I have pursued in the Scottish Parliament over many years - to ensure an effective, humane and immediate response for people in distress or crisis.
Improvements in mental health provision over the past 10 years have been impressive and attitudes towards mental health problems changed markedly for the better. However, there are barriers yet to overcome and many challenges ahead. I believe the SNP strategy is the right one to deliver for Scotland and the many in our communities who need help now and in the future.