Charities give their backing to dedicated A&E mental health unit in Dundee

A number of leading charities have added their names to a growing list calling for a dedicated emergency mental health unit in Dundee.

MSP Jenny Marra has called for the new service to be established following a revelation from Tayside’s most senior police officer that mental health is the force’s “greatest challenge”.

The Scottish Government has faced renewed pressure from campaigners to implement the proposal following a string of shocking and violent incidents in Dundee where mental health was identified as a potential factor.

The incidents have raised serious questions over the way mental health is managed across the region and the quality of services available for people reaching crisis point.

Robin Murphy, from the mental health and wellbeing charity Penumbra, said it causes further distress and anxiety when those in crisis are unable to access support quickly.

He added: “In some parts of the country crisis provision is good. In other areas though, people are unsure how to access dedicated services, if they exist at all.

“There is clearly a need for better crisis support and we are keen to be part of the conversation about the possible options for Dundee.”

Jenny Marra speaking at First Minister’s Questions

Ged Flynn, chief executive of the charity Papyrus, which specialises in prevention of young suicide, said people attending regular A&E at the time of a mental health crisis often find the environment is “not conductive to their needs”.

“In some cases they feel worse or are misunderstood in an emergency department which is busy, noisy and is often hugely pressurised for staff,” he said.

“There is a definite need for an alternative safe space for young people and others who experience suicide crisis to attend somewhere where they and their caregivers and parents can find professional and timely support in a suicide safe environment.”

Mental Health Foundation Scotland’s Toni Giugliano warned Dundee is facing an “imminent mental health storm” unless it finds a way to cope with the increasing number of people reaching crisis point.

Speaking after raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Marra said the present system of mental health crisis care is “simply not enough”.

“I hear stories time and time again of police seeking care for people and being turned away,” she said.

“It’s time that Dundee had a mental health A&E so that those in the most desperate need of care can present themselves, be assessed and given help, care and assistance.

Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said Dundee had “a number of mental health facilities that can respond to psychiatric emergencies and provide admission or community-based support as required.”

She added: “As part of our mental health strategy, and to better support mental health crisis across Scotland, we are investing £35 million over five years to provide 800 additional mental health workers in key settings, including police custody suites and A&Es‎.

“We are also testing an innovative ‘distress brief intervention’ service in four areas across Scotland, to better manage and support people presenting in distress to a wide range of services. These include A&Es, ambulance crews, the police and primary care.”


Link to Dundee Courier article here 

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Dundee warned of “imminent mental health storm” following string of violent and shocking crimes

A series of horrific incidents in the city over recent months have had mental health identified as a potential factor. 

Dundee could be facing an “imminent mental health storm” in the wake of a string of shocking and violent crimes, a leading charity has warned.

A series of horrific incidents in the city over recent months have had mental health identified as a potential factor.

On Thursday, Dundee Sheriff Court heard how Stephen Brisbane, 32, who is accused of using a knife to chop off a disabled pensioner’s hand, will undergo psychiatric assessment to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

Just days earlier, Charles Little, 31, accused of murdering Gordon Diduca with a knife and crossbow last September, was told he must also undergo psychiatric evaluation, raising fears he too may never face justice.

A 44-year-old man remains under hospital supervision following the alleged murder of Mark Johnston in Broughty Ferry last October. No one has been charged.

The incidents have raised concerns over the way mental health is managed across the region and whether enough is being done to intervene when issues are identified.

Toni Giugliano, policy and public affairs manager for Mental Health Foundation Scotland advocates a community-based treatment model but urged policy makers to show a united front on the issue.

Toni Giugliano (left) and Liam Kerr MSP have both raised concerns

He said: “We are facing a situation throughout Scotland where when people are in crisis; they don’t know where to turn for help.

“Increasingly, we are seeing people reaching crisis point and going to A&E, which can often be the worst place for them due to long waits and a shortage of mental health professionals available.

“They go there because they’re used to it but often they aren’t getting the help they need. When that is the case, the worry is that they will just stop trying altogether.”

Labour MSP Jenny Marra led calls for a dedicated mental health unit in Dundee after Tayside’s divisional commander Chief Superintendent Paul Anderson said tackling such issues is the force’s “greatest challenge”.

Mr Giugliano said he would back calls for a roll-out of centres across Scotland because “people need to know where to turn”.

Chief Superintendent Paul Anderson

“We are facing an imminent mental health storm if we don’t reduce the number of issues people are facing,” he said.

“The number of people reaching crisis point is increasing and our focus has to be on reducing those problems and encouraging people to seek help.”

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr said mental health has proved a “huge challenge” for police.

“Officers are coming into contact with people with mental health difficulties every day and it puts huge pressure on police resources,” he said.

“We believe there should be parity between mental and physical health, and that more needs to be done to improve capacity and staffing within our NHS.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was “long-established” that individuals who cannot appreciate the nature or wrongfulness of their actions are not held responsible by criminal law. However, she insisted the government “fully recognises that mental health is a public health issue”

The spokeswoman added: “We are committed to ensuring people receive appropriate care and treatment that meets their individual needs, no matter the setting, with specific attention given to mental health.”


Link to Dundee Courier article here 

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We need A&E for mental health and we need it now: Campaigners call for crisis centre to help save lives

Phil Welsh said few people knew his son Lee had mental health issues (Kris Miller / DC Thomson)

MENTAL health A&E units are urgently needed to provide lifeline treatment during crises, according to a leading MSP.

The centres would provide 24/7 access for people enduring acute depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

Labour MSP Jenny Marra is campaigning for the Scottish Government to green-light the emergency units, and yesterday said: “My surgery is full of families who suffer mental health problems themselves, who have lost loved ones.

“I think there is an acute need now, an urgent need all across Scotland, for mental health accident and emergency services.

“We need to be honest with ourselves that there are probably more people in our communities facing mental health issues than there are broken limbs.

“Given that this is such a big issue in our communities, this is not a situation that can continue.

“We have crisis teams at the moment but we need to look honestly at more accessible provisions round the clock and let people know that there is a place for them to go when they are at crisis point – or way before that to stop that crisis point from ever happening.”

Edinburgh already has a crisis centre operating, where people can text, phone or email for support. It has been credited with saving many lives over the past 11 years. Glasgow also operates an emergency community triage, which works with the police to provide specialist support, but out-of-hours services are in short supply outside of Scotland’s two major cities.

Mental health is increasingly recognised as a major issue for people’s wellbeing, with 728 Scots taking their own lives in 2016.

Scottish charity the Mental Health Foundation already backs implementing a national roll-out of community triage to provide support to people across the country.

And there is cross-party support for the idea at Holyrood.

Last week at Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon agreed with Ms Marra’s proposals “broadly speaking”, adding the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy releases extra funding for specialists in places such as police stations and prisons.

Overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, suicidal…and saved

The Edinburgh Crisis Centre provides immediate support for people of 16 or older with overwhelming mental health difficulties, such as extreme anxiety or depression, and who may be considering suicide.

Staffed by 13 people, it is open 24/7, 365 days a year and is unique in Scotland in offering quick-access one-to-one and short-stay residential mental health crisis support.

People initially contact the service by email, text or telephone. Centre staff then work with the person to support them through their distress.

A person may be offered a one-to-one session, with meetings set up for the same day. Extended or overnight stays are also available for up to four people at any one time.

Around four people per day contact the centre, in Leith, with numbers up 300% compared to when it opened in August 2006. Binal Lanakhi, who has used the centre on several occasions, says her life has been saved by the service. She added: “They talk to you before things get really bad.”


Who Cares? CEO Duncan Dunlop

The mental health of Scottish children in care has not been assessed by the SNP since it came to power, according to campaigners.

It has been 14 years since the last survey was carried out, when the Office for National Statistics found that almost half of looked-after young people had mental health issues.

Who Cares? Scotland called for everyone who is taken into care to be given a mental health assessment within the same time it would take to get a GP appointment.

Duncan Dunlop, the charity’s CEO, said: “We know that care-experienced people face trauma, either before they enter care or through the process of entering care. Many then go without any form of mental health support or can wait over a year to get it.”

The last assessment was in 2004, when the Labour and Lib Dem coalition government at Holyrood examined the welfare of five to 17-year-olds in care.

It found that 45% of those who were assessed had mental health issues.

Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said that the government-funded Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice published a research paper on young people in secure care last October.

She added: “The paper presents key messages and calls for action about secure care from care experienced young people.”

But Tory MSP Annie Wells said: “There is an urgent need to carry out more research into the mental health issues surrounding looked-after children.”


Link to Sunday Post article here

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Call for new crisis centre in Dundee to help folk thinking about suicide

Lesley Nicoll and Phil Welsh — the parents of Lee Welsh — next to a mural in his memory.

New figures have revealed that almost three quarters of all suicides in Dundee were among men.

The latest statistics released by the NHS show that there were a total of 147 suicides in Dundee between 2009 and 2015, of which 109 were men.

The figures also show that the majority of men who committed suicide in the city were employed in senior positions, such as managers, while 43% of men who committed suicide were unemployed, disabled or living off their own means.

One Dundee dad who knows only too well the devastation and heartbreak caused by suicide is Phil Welsh.

Lee Welsh, 27, of the city’s West End, took his own life in August, leaving his friends and family devastated. Phil  called for a crisis centre — similar to one in Edinburgh, which is open 24/7 and provides community based, emotional and practical support at times of crisis — to be set up in Dundee.

Phil told the Evening Telegraph: “Not until Lee died did I appreciate just how many men took their own lives.

“Lee’s death left our family heartbroken and we’re doing everything we can to stop this happening to other families.

“We would like to see a crisis centre set up in Dundee similar to the one in Edinburgh where people who feel suicidal can turn.”

The Tele previously told that Lee had battled mental health issues for almost a decade prior to his death.

Lee’s suicide prompted his parents to campaign for more action to help people with similar issues and following his death, the website Not in Vain for Lee was established.

He said: “If through this focus we can prevent one family from enduring the heartache we as a family are currently suffering, then Lee’s death will not have been in vain.”

Rob Burns, development manager of Dundee’s mental health service the Hearing Voices Network, said that the figures relating to men did not surprise him.

Mr Burns said men who have taken their own lives may not have spoken to anyone about the issues they are experiencing.

He added: “It is really quite frightening the number of people who take their own lives.

“We are very aware that up until now men have not been as willing to come forward to talk about their mental issues or other things that are concerning them as women have been.

“I would think the men in Dundee who have taken their own lives have not previously spoken to anyone about their concerns.

“We are currently doing a lot of work to get men to open up, including taking on more male volunteer supporters.”

The majority of men — 64% — who took their own lives were also single, compared to just over 18% who were married or in a civil relationship.

The figures also revealed that 36 suicides took place within five years of discharge from a mental health service.

While 22 — 15% — of all suicides occurred within 12 months of the person being discharged from a mental health service.

The stats also reveal that more than 87% of people were taking antidepressants at the time of death, while 44.6% were on drugs used in psychoses and related disorders.

The figures follow recent reports that Dundee’s suicide rate is at its highest in 21 years.

A total of 37 people took their lives in 2016 — more than three every month.

n If you feel suicidal, or just need someone to talk to, volunteers at the Samaritans are on hand to help 24 hours a day.

Contact them by calling 116123, or by emailing

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