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

Tayside’s top police officer: Tackling “huge” mental health demand is force’s greatest challenge

Chief Superintendent Paul Anderson

Tayside’s most senior police officer has said finding new ways to tackle the “huge” level of mental health demand in the region is the force’s greatest challenge.

Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Paul Anderson said the force in Tayside is dealing with a complicated “mix of demand” and is looking at new ways of taking on difficult social problems across the wider spectrum of Scotland’s public services.

The force faced criticism following a spike in violent and sexual crime but Mr Anderson revealed the service is looking to reinforce relationships with third party and charity bodies to help drive down the number of serious incidents.

“Mental health is not just an issue for the health service,” he said.

“My officers and staff come into contact with people in times of crisis day in, day out and it caters for a huge amount of our demand.

“Dealing with crises around people who are missing from home, looking for young people who have chosen to leave their house and not go back or go out of care; people with elements of real vulnerability — it’s an area where there is a tremendous amount of work going on at the moment.”

Police Scotland was one of the first police services in the UK to implement mandatory mental health and suicide intervention training for all officers, up to and including the rank of Inspector.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson

Mr Anderson said: “Going forward, it’s something that as a police service we can’t deal with alone.

“We’re looking for joint ways of doing things and we already have joint delivery hubs dealing with community safety, looking after the vulnerable and dealing with domestic violence — that’s our greatest challenge.”

Neil Campbell, director of RockSolid Dundee, a youth project which coordinates mental health services for young people, welcomed Mr Anderson’s comments.

He said: “I think there could be a real crisis in mental health if things aren’t moved in a direction where institutions are able to better work together.

“It can be too easy to make prejudgements on the needs of young people and officers are, perhaps, not always readily equipped to deal with the complexity of the issues behind some of the incidents they are called to.”

Justice secretary Michael Matheson said the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring people receive appropriate care, “no matter the setting, with specific attention being given to mental health”.

He added: “Police Scotland continues to evolve to meet the changing nature of crime and society, working with the wider public sector and others to keep communities safe from a range of harms.”


Link to Courier article here