The independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside has retired to consider the key issues hampering the system’s ability to care for patients.
Launched following pressure from the families of suicide victims in Dundee, the inquiry’s evidence stage has concluded after receiving hundreds of submissions from the public.
Alongside other evidence, these will now be examined by the inquiry, chaired by former chief inspector of prisons David Strang.
Mr Strang said: “I am pleased with the response we have received to our public call for evidence. More than 200 people have submitted written documents and personal statements and there have been more than 60 oral evidence sessions held.
“Evidence has been submitted from a wide range of people including patients, families, carers, NHS employees and third-sector organisations.”
Agencies such as Police Scotland, student welfare teams and Dundee Drugs Misuse Commission have also contributed.
The evidence stage has taken several months, with discussions held with parties with an interest in improving mental health services.
The inquiry has visited psychiatric units including the Carseview Centre, the Rohallion Clinic and Stracathro in order to understand the systems currently in place.
The information it has gathered to date will be used to identify key issues in mental health services.
A statement from inquiry chiefs said: “The next stage of the inquiry’s work is to analyse all the data evidence, relevant government reports, statistical data, internal NHS review documents and data, in order to identify common themes which will then be the subject of further investigation and analysis.”
The inquiry was commissioned by NHS Tayside last year after campaign group Lost Souls of Dundee claimed it had identified at least 10 suicides which could have been prevented in the area.
The number of people with mental health issues being readmitted to hospital in Tayside within a month of their discharge is increasing.
More than 16% of Tayside adults discharged from hospital, having been admitted on mental health grounds, were back within a month in 2016/17, according to new figures.
The readmission rate has increased from 11.9% in 2012/13.
NHS Tayside is above the Scottish average for mental health hospital readmissions in the most recent statistics compiled by ISD Scotland.
At 16.3%, it was behind only NHS boards in Dumfries & Galloway and Lothian.
The majority of patients readmitted after an initial stay in hospital were affected by mood disorders (36.9%), delusional type disorders (19.2%) and adult personality and behavioural disorders (15.8%).
North East Scottish Conservative MSP Bill Bowman said the increase in readmissions for depression is “very troubling”.
The ISD figures also recorded NHS Tayside region had the fourth highest suicide rate in Scotland, behind Forth Valley, Highlands and Orkney – 14.4 per 100,000 between 2012 and 2016.
Mr Bowman said: “At some point, one in four people will experience a mental health condition.
“NHS Tayside staff are doing their best to deal with the growing number of people who come to them with symptoms of depression and low mood.
“Because Tayside has such a high suicide rate, NHS Tayside needs resources to dig into why people come back to hospital so quickly.
“If it’s because of underfunding in areas run by councils and community healthcare partnerships, the SNP government needs to assess the potential damage it is doing by making cuts to local authority budgets.”
A spokesperson for NHS Tayside said: “Mental illnesses can be unpredictable and there are many reasons why a patient may require to be readmitted following discharge from hospital.
“Patients can sometimes experience a new episode of illness for which admission to hospital is the most appropriate course of treatment.
“Patients are discharged following clinical assessment from a consultant psychiatrist and are followed up locally within the community.
“There is no direct relationship between the length of time a patient is in hospital and the need to be readmitted.”
She added: “Anyone can become suicidal; the reasons can be different and very complex and it is not always due to mental illness. Each suicide is a tragedy and the impact on those left behind lasts a lifetime.
“Every suicide in Tayside is comprehensively reviewed by the Tayside multi-agency Suicide Review Group to look at the circumstances surrounding each individual case.
“f people are feeling suicidal, the best thing to do is talk and tell someone how they are feeling. Speak to someone you can trust or call a helpline. If you’re worried that someone else is suicidal, ask them – asking someone directly about their feelings can help them.”
Further help and information can be found by downloading the “Suicide? Help!” app, visiting www.suicidehelp.co.uk or calling NHS 24 on 111, Samaritans on Freephone 116 123 or Breathing Space on 0800 838587 or www.breathingspacescotland.co.uk
An independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside is currently under way.
A Fife director is hoping to release a new film with a focus on coping with depression over the festive season in time for Christmas 2019.
‘Cold’, which has been written and produced by Kirkcaldy film maker Gavin Hugh, is being filmed in locations across Kirkcaldy, Stirling, Edinburgh and Aviemore, with two days of filming already in the can.
It is a huge personal undertaking for Gavin, who has previously worked for STV and Sky News and has been running his own Kirkcaldy-based video production business, MidgieBite Media, since late 2017 while also working part time at the Scottish Parliament as an assistant to Dundee City East MSP Shona Robison.
However, with the production funded through goodwill and his own pocket so far, Gavin and his team plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign early this year to help finish the film and release it in winter 2019.
“For a lot of us, Christmas is a happy time of year where we can celebrate and put all of our troubles to one side but for people suffering with depression it can be incredibly difficult to do that,” Gavin explained.
“We focus on how the pressure of trying to take part in the festivities and putting on a brave face just isn’t something that can be easily switched on and off in time with the days on a calendar.
“Taking care of your own mental health is easy to overlook. I’ve had my own issues with anxiety over the years, and some of the people that I’m closest to in my life have suffered from depression.
“Mental health issues can be challenging not just for the individual but for the people around them who are trying to offer support.
“As this film is drawing on a lot of personal experiences, it’s really important for me that our film gives an honest portrayal of these issues.
“While there’s an increasing awareness of mental health issues in mainstream society, we’re really hoping that the film can help encourage people to still be mindful of them at this time of year.”
Gavin has been involved in a lot of local film projects over the years, particularly with horror filmmakers Hex Media, and has recently been working closely with Robbie Davidson on his upcoming World War Two epic ‘Dick Dynamite’.
Most of the primary cast for Cold are Fifers, including Andrew Gourlay, Hana Mackenzie, Craig Seath and Iain Leslie, as are most of the technical crew.
Lead actress Rowan Birkett, a friend of Gavin’s from student days at Stirling University, has been travelling up from Ambleside in England to take part, while Dundee is also represented in Grant R Keelan, a city-based photographer who acts in the film as well as working in the technical team.
“It’s genuinely been great to work with so many talented local artists,” he added.
More details about the crowdfunding campaign will be announced in due course, and the plan is to hold a premiere of the new film in Kirkcaldy later in the year.
The Dundee Fighting for Fairness report summarises how key issues affecting people in city are being tackled.
It was launched at the Steeple Church following months of research by the Fairness Commission, whose members met with people and families struggling to get by.
Among the recommendations are creating a single access point for all financial advice services in the city, preparing positive, anti-poverty messages and helping frontline staff including GP surgeries to raise awareness of the impact of poverty on mental health.
John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council and chairman of the Dundee Partnership, said: “People and money, mental health and stigma are three of the main themes we are looking at because they have featured in all of the stories we have heard.
“We know that far too much poverty that exists in the city and this is one way to target some of the root causes of that – by involving people with real-life experience.”
Another recommendation aimed at tackling issues with mental health in the city is to create a 24/7 drop-in service offering clinical, non-clinical, therapeutic and peer support.
The commission had found that people reach crisis point outside normal working hours and cannot self-refer for support when they need it most. It was also found that services did not always treat people in poverty with respect.
The partnership recommended that guidance materials are developed to allow service providers to recruit and train staff with the right values.
On December 12, the recommendations will be presented to Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government.
The number of university students in Scotland seeking support for mental health issues has increased by two-thirds over five years, analysis shows.
The BBC asked universities across Scotland for the numbers of students seeking some form of support.
It found more than 11,700 students asked for help in 2016-17 compared with about 7,000 in 2012-13.
The 68% increased among students in Scotland was higher than the 53% total for the UK over the same period.
University counsellors and wellbeing staff told BBC Scotland that they deal with cases ranging from anxiety, depression, gender-based violence and body dysmorphia.
The figures – obtained by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit through freedom of information requests – showed that only 12 of Scotland’s 19 universities recorded how many students sought help for their health help over the five-year period.
The data shows:
The number of students seeking help for their mental health at the University of Edinburgh doubled over five years
The University of Glasgow experienced a 75% rise in students seeking help for their mental health between 2012-13 and 2016-17
The University of Stirling had a 74% rise in students seeking help for their mental health between 2012-13 and 2016-17
Glasgow School of Art experienced a 72% increase in students seeking help for their mental health over the same period
‘Not being able to return the favour had a toll on me’
Connor Smith was in his third year studying computer games development at the University of the West of Scotland when his close friend, who was also a student, took his own life.
“I was really shook up and didn’t know what to do with myself,” he said.
“I had struggled with my mental health before but the person who took his life was able to help me out of that, so not being able to return the favour had a toll on me.”
The university’s counselling team quickly offered to help Connor.
“I couldn’t speak to my family because I felt like I was burdening them,” he said.
“I couldn’t speak to my close friends either because they were going through the same thing.”
Connor said that he was struggling not only with the death of his friend but also his future prospects.
He said: “One evening I sat down and thought ‘what am I doing?’.
“I forced myself to work at university but I wasn’t in a good mind space. I really wasn’t enjoying what I was doing.”
Connor said he did not know what would have come of his life had it not been for the university’s support.
He said: “I wouldn’t have done so well.
“I might’ve quit university and if I did that, I don’t know what I would be doing.
“I had nothing lined up as a fall-back.”
Connor returned to counselling for a second time during his final year of studying. He was struggling with stress, overeating and had money worries.
He said: “[The support] wasn’t immediately available like before but, when I did get it, being able to speak to someone was so helpful.
“University was the best stretch of my life but easily the lowest I have been as well.”
‘I don’t like the term snowflake’
Ronnie Millar, director of counselling at the University of Edinburgh, said there is a “pernicious perfectionism” among students, which can affect their mental health.
He said: “When I was at university, there were no fees and we had student grants.
“Nowadays, more students have to work in part-time jobs and study, which puts a lot of pressure on them to succeed.”
Mr Millar said it was not helpful to label young people seeking help with terms such as snowflake, which imply they are less resilient than previous generations and too emotionally vulnerable.
He said: “I don’t like the term snowflake. I think it is a pejorative.
“In terms of resilience, some students struggle more than previous generations – but that’s not pointing the finger of blame.”
Mr Millar said that while there’s been a doubling in the male students coming forward for help for their mental health, the “proportion” has stayed the same over the five-year period.
“We say to students that [counselling] is not activity just for women, it’s for everyone.”
Social media bubble
Dr Phil Quinn, head of counselling and psychological services at the University of Glasgow, said that while there was greater awareness of the help available, a “saturated” NHS had resulted in fewer community services for students to access mental health support.
He said: “We have had a record year in terms of referrals to the service, of students starting their university careers with already diagnosed mental health conditions.”
The University of Glasgow employed 20 staff in 2016-17 – ranging from cognitive behavioural therapists and a consultant psychiatrist to a counselling manager – to assist with the 2,330 students that came forward that year.
Quinn believes that staff numbers are sufficient to meet demand, and that the increase in students coming forward for help is partly down to a “24-hour social media bubble” where they are exposed to “criticism, bullying, and abuse”.
Jackie Main, who is the director of student life at Glasgow Caledonian University, said it was not just the volume of students seeking support that was increasing but the complexity of the issues they presented with.
“We see a lot more crisis students than before,” she said.
“That could mean a student is actively self-harming, threatening suicide or requires being sectioned or hospitalised.
“Crisis students experience severe emotional distress, including panic attacks.”
At Glasgow Caledonian University, the number of students seeking support in 2016-17 hit 661, up 69% since 2012-13.
Ms Main added: “Anxiety and depression are the two big issues we’ve see increases in.
“We are not a crisis support service. We don’t have the resource and it is not our job. But we don’t let students fall through the net.”
Eight of Scotland’s universities provided the BBC with their total budgets for mental health services – which in some cases included services that don’t just support student mental health, such as a disability service – in the five years to 2016-7.
It revealed an increase of 31% from £2.4m to £3.1m.
The University of Strathclyde (which did not provide complete figures for the number of students seeking help between 2012-13 and 2016-17) was the only institution to report a decrease in its overall budget over the five year period, down by 18%.
A spokeswoman for the university put the drop down to “re-structuring” and emphasised that significant investment – about £400,000 – had been made since 2017, including the creation of three full-time and 12 part-time posts on the mental health and wellbeing teams.
She said: “We have also introduced an online mental health support programme, which works hand-in-hand with our dedicated advisers and therapists, to ensure support is available for all.”
‘Finding out you’ve failed all your classes is horrible’
Hannah Moles was in her third year of studying maths at the University of Strathclyde when she approached student services for help.
Not only had she failed her first set of exams but she was also caring for her grandmother who had dementia.
She said: “My brother and I were going over three times a week to make my gran dinner, get the shopping and keep her company.
“She was really lonely.”
Hannah said that when she wasn’t caring for her gran, working in a part-time job which paid for her flat, or sleeping, she’d be in the library trying to study.
“I was really tired and had things on my mind constantly,” she said.
“So I went along to support services to see if I could calm myself down. I wanted to improve my mental state before my next set of exams.”
Hannah said that eight weeks after approaching student services, she received her first counselling appointment.
However, by this point Hannah had failed her second round of exams – meaning she wouldn’t be allowed to return for the fourth year of her degree.
“Finding out you’ve failed all your classes is horrible especially when you have put in the work but it is still not enough,” she said.
Hannah said that she was grateful to her university for providing mental health support but more counsellors would help meet the increasing demand.
“I am lucky that I got the support I needed,” she said.
“But there are lots of students who seem to need help with their mental health. I just hope that universities can keep up with the increasing demand.”
’80 new counsellors’
The Scottish government’s most recent Programme for Government promised to provide more than 80 additional counsellors in further and higher education institutions over the next four years, with an investment of about £20m.
However, there is no indication yet how the funding will be split or which universities will receive more counsellors.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said every student “should have access to emotional and mental well-being support”.
“We will work closely with the university and college sectors, NUS Scotland and other partners, on the implementation of the additional counsellors, and to ensure an integrated and wrap-around approach to student wellbeing in higher and further education.”
Details of organisations offering information and support with mental health issues are available at bbc.co.uk/actionline, or you can call for free, at any time to hear recorded information on 0800 888 809.
A Dundee couple who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary have donated all the money given to them in lieu of gifts to a charity set up in memory of a young city dad who tragically took his own life.
Anton, known as Dode, and Anne Dolderer, celebrated their golden anniversary with a party in the Taxi Club.
Instead of gifts, the Coldside couple asked family and friends to contribute to the Not in Vain for Lee charity.
Lee Welsh took his own life, aged only 27, claims he had not been given enough support for mental health issues.
Since then his family have been raising funds in his memory.
Lee’s childhood friend Steve Martin, 27, organised the first Lee Welsh Memorial Match which was held at North End Park in June. It will be played again next year.
Lee’s dad Phil said: “Our friends Dode and Anne requested that their guests contribute to the Not in Vain for Lee charity events which will take place again in the summer of 2019.
“They raised a massive £750 at their special party and have donated this to us.
“This fantastic gesture will enable us to buy a second set of strips for the memorial match next year and still leave money to go towards our chosen mental health charity.
“We cannot thank them enough for this amazing gesture.”