Statistics released by the Government reveal an increase in the number of under 18s taking their own lives, fuelling calls for bold action.
Labour MSP Monica Lennon: “It is tragic and deeply worrying that so many children and young people have ended their lives in Scotland in recent years. Specialist youth mental health services are badly under-resourced.”
The NHS recently revealed 784 probable suicides in 2018 – a 15% rise compared to the previous years.
In the same twelve month period, suicides among those in the 15-24 age category soared by 50%.
However, these were one year figures and new data published this week drills down even further.
In 2014, ten under 18s completed suicide, but the total has steadily climbed and reached 26 in 2018 – a five year high.
The same information shows a near 25% rise between 2014 and 2018 in suicide among 18-24 year olds, from 59 to 75.
It comes after a Glasgow University study found that one in nine young people in Scotland have attempted suicide and one is six has self-harmed.
In June, it also emerged that the number of young people waiting more than a year for a specialist mental health service had more than trebled within 12 monthS.
Nearly 120 children and young people waited more than 53 weeks to be seen in the first three months of 2019.
Lennon added: “SNP Ministers have been warned repeatedly that vulnerable young people are falling through the cracks.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s government has made good commitments on mental health and suicide prevention; however, warm words are meaningless if education, youth services and the NHS are not getting enough investment.”
Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone said: “It’s absolutely distressing to see suicide among young people at its highest level in five years. Each of these deaths has had a devastating impact on others and the wider community.
“For all the rhetoric on this, we still haven’t shifted the conversation enough onto prevention. The figures on self-harm should act as a warning sign, and we clearly need more early interventions, which would also reduce the pressure on acute services too.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It’s heartbreaking when anyone takes their own life.
“We are working tirelessly with partners to improve mental health services for young people, including those who have considered suicide or been bereaved by it. It is an area that the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group is focusing on and we are working with COSLA to implement their recommendations.
“We are developing new community wellbeing support services, which will initially be for five to 25 year olds.“Actions to improve peer support in schools and teacher training are being worked on, along with 24/7 crisis support for children and young people and their families.“We are also investing in mental health support for students. That will see over 80 additional counsellors in further and higher education over next four years, with £20 million investment.”
A Fife adult has been forced to wait nearly two years to begin mental health treatment.
The 651-day wait is stark proof a change in how the issue is tackled is required, according to North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader was stunned by the response given by NHS Fife following a Freedom of Information request after questioning the health board about the longest wait endured by any adult who started treatment for psychological therapies in the region after a referral.
NHS Fife said it could not provide figures for the last three years despite recording them, citing the lengthy search, preparation and retrieval work involved, but Mr Rennie is concerned Fife’s current figure is the worst in Scotland – ahead of Grampian’s figure of 603 days.
“These findings are shocking,” he told The Courier.
“There’s no way a serious physical health condition will be left untreated for over a year like this Fife patient waiting 651 days.
“Sadly, this picture from NHS Fife is echoed across Scotland and only goes to demonstrate that mental health is still seen as less important when compared to more visible conditions.
“We know how powerful psychological therapies can be to assist people who are recovering, as well as benefitting those around them.
“But early intervention is key and there’s just more damage done, and more to treat, if patients are in limbo on waiting lists for months on end.”
In response to his concerns, Julie Paterson, divisional manager with Fife health and social care partnership, said it was taking action to address the situation.
“With additional resource in place and service redesign progressing, Fife’s health and social care partnership is continuing to develop early intervention and self referral to some of the low intensity psychological therapies and is providing a responsive service to those with less complex needs,” she commented.
“This aims to ensure that specialist services have greater capacity to meet the needs of those who require this intervention.
“Whilst demand for psychological therapies continues to grow, Fife’s health and social care partnership remains committed to working creatively through service redesign to ensure a responsive service based on individual needs.”
A Fife school chief has led calls for more mental health cash as it emerged the kingdom has some the lowest funding levels for young people in Scotland.
Across the country, 0.48% of NHS spending finds its way to children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
NHS Fife spends £245,000 a year on the service, which represents 0.04% of its health budget – the second lowest proportion in the country.
Tayside spends £6.6m, which is 0.72% of its expenditure, according to the figures which were published in response to a question from Tory MSP Miles Briggs.
Kenny Graham, from Falkland House in Fife, whose pupils have additional support needs, said: “It is clearly disappointing to note these newly released figures highlighting the very small proportion of the overall NHS and mental health budget being spent on addressing the needs of children and young people, especially when we know that three children in every classroom have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem. “
Ahead of Derek Mackay’s budget next week, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition is calling for the CAMHS budget to triple, with nearly an extra £100m a year of funding.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Liberal Democrat MSP, said: “It is high time SNP ministers delivered the scale of intervention required.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Mental health is an absolute priority for us which is clearly shown by our investment of £150 million over five years for improving mental health, including £15 million to support better access to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
“We are dedicated to improving specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) across Scotland but we want to do more, particularly as more young people are coming forward to seek help as stigma surrounding mental health declines.”
A Fife patient has waited almost a year to see a consultant psychiatrist, new figures have revealed.
According to a Freedom of Information request by The Courier there are 647 people on the waiting list for an appointment.
The longest wait to be seen is just sunder of a year, with one patient waiting 335 days – although Fife health and social care partnership divisional general manager Julie Paterson said data for 2016/17 showed there was an average wait was 64 days.
The problem is exacerbated by vacancies – six of the 31 posts are unfilled.
Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie said: “People with poor mental issue in Fife are being failed to a degree that is difficult to comprehend.”
Meanwhile Labour MSP Claire Baker said it was time the SNP stopped dragging its heels as the growing mental health problem in Scotland is a scandal which has to be addressed by the Scottish Government.
Both politicians compared the delays in getting help with that of a physical injury.
“If I had a broken leg I would be treated by the NHS within hours,” Mr Rennie said.
“If I had to wait for a year not only would I be in agony but I would also suffer permanent disfigurement and would need many more visits to the NHS to put right the damage to my leg.
“Yet because it is mental health, we can’t see the injury and the stigma associated with the condition it seems to be accepted that people should wait for a year. This has got to change.”
Mrs Baker added: “The level of vacancies doesn’t help waiting times, but even at full complement there will still be too many patients waiting for vital care in Fife.”
Ms Paterson said mental health services are being redesigned and the partnership is “committed to ensuring that the needs of individuals are matched to the level of care they require whilst ensuring a responsive and accessible service”.
There is an urgent care assessment team which provides a response on a 24-hour basis to those in critical need and urgent referrals usually have an appointment within one week.
For all other referrals the average wait was 64 days.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our vision is of a Scotland where people can get the right help at the right time, expect recovery, and fully enjoy their rights, free from discrimination and stigma.”
Trainee recruitment into core roles had increased and 82% of posts have been filled, with a rise in the number of psychiatry consultant roles across Scotland of 21.2%.
He added the Government was committed to a £150 million investment over five years in improving mental health, with additional funding reaching £35m by 2022 for 800 additional mental health workers in key settings.