Mental heath services in the city are “among the worst in Scotland” according to one patient who feels she is being failed by the system.
Lynsey-Jane Gray, who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder and depression, has received care for her mental health struggles in other cities across Scotland in the past.
But since moving to the city two years ago, Ms. Gray has been left dismayed by the service provided to people here – prompting her to speak out about her concerns.
She said: “I have lived in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling and had excellent assistance, but I have never experienced anything like Dundee.
“There is no community psychiatric team and I have only been seen by the current team once or twice since I moved here. When you compare to the bi-weekly treatment I was receiving in Stirling, it’s abysmal.”]
Lynsey-Jane said that consistency was vital in helping cope with mental illness, but she has claimed she has rarely seen the same consultant twice during her time living the city.
“I never see the same psychiatrist twice and this exacerbates my condition she explained.
The city centre resident pointed to figures released earlier this year that showed that nine people per 100,000 people in Dundee have committed suicide in the last five years, claiming it’s evidence the system is failing people.
She said: “Dundee has the highest suicide rate in Scotland and it’s not difficult to see why when you look at the service that is available.
“There’s not enough practitioners, it’s going to put people off asking for help.”
Lyndsey-Jane said she tried to phone her doctor’s surgery more than 100 times before she was able to get through to the receptionist to book an appointment.
“My partner and I were on the phone simultaneously trying to reach them. I had phoned 131 times and he phoned around 20,” she said.
“By the time I got through, the response was ‘what is wrong with you today?’ What if someone was severely suicidal and wanting an appointment? It’s awful practice.”
The service provided to Dundonians is so bad that Lynsey-Jane claims she would have second thoughts about moving to the city if she had known about the level of care she would be able to access here.
The admin worker said: “There are many people out there, like me, who have complex psychiatric conditions that require regular support and Dundee is not providing this.
“If I had known it was like this, I would have perhaps decided against moving here.”
For Lynsey-Jane, the problem with the mental health provisions in the city lies with what she sees as a lack of funding and she believes those who are struggling are being let down.
The 29-year-old added: “The city seems so focused on the gentrification of itself that vulnerable people are being left behind.
“There is not enough practitioners in Dundee and you have to ask if they are doing enough to attract them to city.
“I have received care from Carseview also and the team have been brilliant but you can see they are stretched.”
A spokeswoman for Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership said: “Due to patient confidentiality we cannot discuss matters relating to individual patients.
“Community mental health services in Dundee offer a range of support to people experiencing challenges with their mental health and emotion wellbeing.
“A variety of specialist staff work within our community mental health services ranging from psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dietitians, speech and language therapists, mental health officers, social workers, peer support workers and a range of other support workers.
“Following an initial assessment an individual may be offered ongoing support from a range of professionals to best meet their needs.
“Patients requiring specialist mental health input may be referred to their local community mental health team based at Alloway Centre or Wedderburn House.
“Anyone who requires to be seen more quickly then can get an urgent or emergency referral to the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team (CRHTT).”
Health chiefs say a controversial shake-up of psychiatric services across Tayside is being hampered by “significant workforce challenges” – exactly as opponents predicted more than a year ago.
NHS Tayside pressed ahead with its planned review in January, despite concerns that many staff would be unwilling or unable to make the move to new cities.
Under the scheme, leading disability inpatient services will be provided at Murray Royal Hospital, Perth, while services are being transferred out of the Mulberry unit at Stracathro Hospital near Brechin and general adult psychiatry acute admissions centralised in Dundee
However, members of the Perth and Kinross Integration Joint Board have now been told that the majority of staff – around 55% – are unable to move for a variety of reasons.
At a meeting on Tuesday, Gordon Paterson, chief officer of the Perth and Kinross Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The progress of implementing the redesign programme has been slow and that is partly because of some of the significant workforce challenges, in relation to the proposed transfer of patients and wards from one site to another.
“We need to ensure that we have adequate staffing in place. We need to engage with nursing staff and clinical staff to ensure that that they can transfer from Perth to Dundee, or Dundee to Perth. If they can’t we have to make sure we can suitably redeploy them and there are some alternative options.”
He said: “We recognise that this is an upheaval for staff and we recognise that some staff can’t travel.”
Mr Paterson said it was crucial to get to the next phase of the plan, which involves shifting a ward from Carseview to Murray Royal.
“We are anticipating we will be in a position to progress this early in the new year, notwithstanding the fact we are sensitive to the impact and implications for staffing,” he said.
Independent councillor Xander McDade described the situation as “quite disturbing”.
He said: “At the meeting in January 2018, the main rationale for the redesign – which we were given repeatedly – was that the only way we could safely staff the service was to go ahead with this model.
“That was the clinching argument.”
NHS Tayside’s Alan Drummond said: “This was raised as a red risk prior to that meeting.
“It wasn’t a case that staff didn’t want to carry on their care for patients, they were just unable to make the move.
“We raised this as part of the consultation and we were told that the risk would be managed. This is not the unknown we are dealing with, this was raised three years ago.”
Mr Paterson said he was also aware that an independent inquiry into mental health services, led by Dr David Strang, was due to be published in February and could make further recommendations.
Dr Strang said earlier this year that the redesign should be halted to allow for a wider review of health services.
Sophie Parkinson was found dead at her home in Liff, near Dundee, in 2014 having taken her own life.
She had been seeking help from local mental health services from the age of seven.
Ruth Moss, mother of the High School of Dundee pupil, blames NHS Tayside for her death and is privately suing the health board in parallel to the inquiry.
A hearing was held at Dundee Sheriff Court today at which lawyers for the Crown, Mrs Moss, NHS Tayside and the High School of Dundee had been expected to agree dates in January for the inquiry to take place.
However, Sheriff Lorna Drummond was asked for more time to call expert witnesses and prepare joint minutes of agreement and matters of dispute so the inquiry proceeds at pace.
Sheriff Drummond chose to set a further preliminary hearing – the third so far – for January 16, and instructed parties to agree witnesses and a timeline of events for that date.
She told the lawyers present: “I want to make sure we get a firm grip of this inquiry.”
Following the hearing, Mrs Moss said: “It has been postponed, but it has been postponed for the right reasons. This absolutely needs to be done right.
“I would like to make sure that everyone has a chance to be heard. If that takes a little bit longer – it does seem like a very long wait – hopefully we will get the answers in the end and there will be some real changes from it as well.
“That’s my hope for the end of it. I have nothing else to say.”
The full inquiry is expected to take place in the spring, over the course of at least five days.
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.”
Suicide in Scotland is at a five-year high with three times more men than women taking their lives last year. Families from two former industrial towns, Motherwell and Wishaw, speak about losing brothers, sons and partners.
It was a blustery February afternoon when Yvonne Welsh shut the door of her Motherwell home. She had gone to run errands and had left one of her three sons, Lloyd, playing video games in his bedroom.
Having been away for no more than 40 minutes, Yvonne returned to an unusually quiet house. “I shouted up to Lloyd that I’d got a McDonald’s. I texted him. He didn’t reply. He always had his phone on him. I shouted on him. No reply.”
Moments later she discovered her son was dead.
The 22-year-old had taken his life in the family home but had given no warning and had left no note.
Lloyd’s parents and brothers try to remember the smiling young man who would play practical jokes, and not the boy who retreated into himself in the last year of his life.
Yvonne says she sometimes feels angry and guilty but mostly she feels sad that her son could not come to her. “Lloyd doesn’t know what he’s done to this family,” she says.
The death has had a profound impact on Jordan, Lloyd’s 26-year-old brother. He is a standout player for local amateur football team Motherwell Thistle, a club which has been scarred by suicide.
‘I know that he loved me’
In 2017, Thistle player John Fowler killed himself. It was the beginning of a number of suicides connected to the team. In August last year, the team’s goalkeeper Paul Gerard Aiton – or PG, as he was known – killed himself at home.
When the team lifted a trophy at the end of the season, they wore black armbands bearing his name. His family – including an infant daughter PG would never meet – watched from the stands.
Like Lloyd, PG gave no warning. His mother Catherine says she feels “angry, embarrassed and ashamed of him”, but she still loves him.
“I love him to bits, it’s unconditional. It’s so hard, knowing you’re never going to see him again – ever.”
When PG died, his partner Naomi was three months pregnant.
It was “brilliant” when Faith was born, says Naomi. She adds: “But at the same time when I was in the hospital I was thinking, ‘where is he?’.
“And his family, you could see that they were visibly upset because everybody’s thinking ‘he should be here’. It does make you question – especially when we used to talk about the future – it does make you question if it was all a lie, but, I know that it wasn’t. I know that he loved me and he would have never hurt me.”
Motherwell Thistle, like each of the families, is having to cope with the grief of suicide. Four young men who are linked to the club have killed themselves in the past two years.
Margaret McMillan, the club’s secretary, said she felt she had lost sons. With so much sadness surrounding the team, there have been times she has contemplated giving it up. “But I’ve got 18 other guys on this team that you can’t give up on. You’ve just got to keep going, and try and do your best, and that’s all we can do.”
Are you struggling to cope?
Call Samaritans free on 116 123 (UK and Ireland) or visit the Samaritans website to find details of the nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every day of the year. Mind has a confidential telephone helpline – 0300 123 339 (Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm).
In Wishaw, three miles east of Motherwell, there have been more deaths – Daryl O’Rourke (17); Stephen Mearns (19); Callum Dunne and his friend Murray (both 16) all killed themselves within a seven-week period in the spring of 2018.
Some of the boys were friends, others knew of each other and, like Lloyd and PG, none gave any warning.
They left behind families, friends and a community still asking why so many young lives were lost in this way and so close together.
“It felt as if there was one suicide after another,” said Shannon Brown, the sister of Callum.
On 23 May 2018, a front page of the Wishaw Press featured three black-and-white photographs of Murray, Callum and Stephen, with the headline “Why?”.
“Enough is enough,” it declared. “We need to talk about suicide.”
Motherwell and Wishaw sit in Scotland’s central belt, 20 miles east of Glasgow and 40 miles west of Edinburgh. They were towns built on a powerful industrial base of coal mines and steel works. All are gone.
Ravenscraig steel plant, on the border of the two towns, was once the busiest steel-maker in Western Europe employing more than 10,000 people. Now it’s one of the continent’s largest brownfield sites.
Lloyd’s brother Jordan plays home games for Motherwell Thistle at the new sporting complex near the site, which is named after Ravenscraig.
The area has been in economic decline and it wears the signs – shuttered shop fronts and pawn shops offering to buy gold.
BBC Suicides in Scotland
5,286Total number of deaths
73%Suicide deaths were male
47%Aged 35-54 when they died
73%Single, widowed or divorced
67%Employed at the time of death
Source: National Statistics
NHS research suggests suicide is three times more likely among those living in the most economically deprived areas than in the least deprived, and more likely to occur in areas which have experienced deindustrialisation.
Three quarters of people who kill themselves in the UK are men. In Scotland, which has the highest suicide rate in Britain, more than half of those who died in this way last year were under 45.
When Scotland recorded a five-year high of 784 suicides in 2018, one of the striking aspects of the data was the 50% rise in deaths of those aged under 24.
BBC Scotland’s Disclosure studied 845 death records of those under 50 in Motherwell and Wishaw over a 10-year period from 2008 to 2018. There were at least 72 suspected suicides.
The number of those aged 25 and under who killed themselves in these years remained low, with one or two a year. However, that number rose to seven last year, the year that Murray, Callum, Stephen and Daryl died.
‘I felt guilt that I couldn’t save my son’
Anne Rowan’s son Christopher killed himself in 2011. After struggling to come to terms with his death for a number of years, she founded a charity in his name, Chris’s House.
Occupying an old bank building at the foot of Main Street, it is a crisis centre offering 24-hour direct support and counselling to those at risk or bereaved by suicide, the first of its kind in Scotland.
According to Anne, it is a vital service for those in need in the area, helping hundreds of people since being established in 2015. And it’s getting busier. “In one month, we had 948 counselling hours,” she said.
“Through Christopher dying, I felt such a failure, really overwhelming guilt that I couldn’t save my son. I just knew that there had to be something to bridge the gap from people just getting a prescription and having a [NHS] waiting time. I just knew there had to be something immediate.”
The “whole aim” of Chris’s House is to stop people dying from suicide, something Anne says is “everyone’s business”. “You know you’re halfway there when they’ve come through the door,” said Anne.
“I don’t envisage that we will obliterate or eradicate it. It would be nice if we could minimise it to the point where the NHS can deal with the suicide rate on their own, that we didn’t need the charities, but I don’t think we’ll ever see that.”
Few of these young men were in touch with mental health services prior to their deaths. Getting this cohort to come forward and ask for help remains a major challenge. If services don’t know someone is in crisis, how can they help them?
The issue of suicide has seeped into the local consciousness – the press coverage, the charity football matches and the online tributes.
Locals share messages on social media about mental health and the Wishaw Press campaign continues.
Dr Alastair Cook, a consultant psychiatrist for NHS Lanarkshire, believes it is important to recognise that suicide is “an extremely rare event”.
“But it generates a huge amount of fear within the community around what might be happening with our young people.”
He thinks the ability of social media to influence the way communities respond to suicide means there is much more awareness around young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
And for Dr Cook that awareness is a “double-edged sword”. “I think awareness is actually a good thing, provided awareness doesn’t then generate fear. And it’s how we help people to understand that, I think is really important.”
Motherwell FC has become the first Scottish Premiership club to display suicide prevention messaging on its shirts – such is its proximity to the issue. It has made social media videos featuring its first team and partnered with the local council to promote awareness among fans who include those most likely to kill themselves – men in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
According to the Fir Park club’s chief executive, Alan Burrows, at least 24 of its supporters have taken their lives in the last two years. Lloyd Welsh, a diehard fan, was one of them.
“We have examples of the football club where we have managed to stop something tragic happening. The problems that you have, we can get you help. We can speak to people, we can put you through to the right people. And that’s the message that we’re trying to drive as a football club.”
Football is woven through this story. Many of the young men who’ve died not only played the sport, but football was seemingly a central pillar of their identity. But has something grown up around the culture of football and the way that it’s consumed that’s perhaps detrimental to young men’s mental health?
Match days consist of watching the game, but also often of excessive drinking, drug taking and smartphone gambling either side of it, all of which can be key drivers of mental ill-health.
Burrows, though, sees the sport as a positive. “I see football as the way that people can come and forget their problems, have that release. Have time with their friends and family, to talk to people if they need help.”
In May this year, hundreds of people walked through the night along the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow in memory of friends and loved ones they had lost to suicide. The annual Walk of Hope event also raised funds for Chris’s House. Jordan Welsh was among those who walked until the sun rose, as was Naomi Foster Aiton.
All the participants were invited to light candles for their loved ones, and many lined up to throw yellow roses from a bridge into the river, the petals floating across the black glassy surface in the first light of that misty morning.
This is not a story about those who have gone. Instead, this is a story about those who are left behind and how they have chosen to try to come to terms with their loved one’s deaths.
Catherine wants to stop other boys being lost to suicide. And she has a message to those who find themselves in crisis: “Step back, take five minutes, think about what you’re doing to the people who love you.
“Think about what you’re doing to your mum. Do you want your mum to be like me? Even if you don’t feel as if you love yourself, somebody does.
A BBC documentary fronted by author Darren McGarvey and focusing on the “rampant rise of poverty and inequality” across Scotland will air its Dundee-focused episode tomorrow.
The Glasgow-born rapper and social commentator, also known as Loki, visited the city to explore the drugs death crisis.
His 2018 Orwell prize-winning book Poverty Safari chronicled his childhood and teen years in Pollok in Glasgow and the issues he saw around him.
In the six-part series, Darren gives a personal take on the ground level reality of poverty in Scotland and how the effects play out and impact on so many lives.
The first episode of the series, centering on Dundee, sees the 35-year-old meet Jamie who has lost more than 20 people within her close relatives and friends, including her sister, mum, dad, stepdad and uncles, to drugs.
Taking a tour of Birkhill Cemetery, Darren says: “The statistics around drug related deaths are shocking enough but like many statistics they don’t really convey the human cost, not just for the people who die, but for the people that are left behind that have to live with the grief.”
He also meets publican Karen whose brother was fatally stabbed in 2011 by an addict and finds hope in a locally-driven project, with a support group of individuals helping each other towards recovery from their drug addiction.