The number of young people with a mental illness being treated in non-specialist wards has seen a “significant drop”, a report has found.
The Mental Welfare Commission said there were 207 admissions to non-specialist wards in 2014-5, dropping to 71 in the last year.
Most of those 71 admissions – involving 66 young people – were to adult wards.
The Scottish government welcomed the report but said it recognised there was still work to be done.
Every health board in Scotland reported a fall in treatment on non-specialist wards, but the commission said there were “marked” reductions in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Tayside, Ayrshire and Arran, and Grampian.
Dr Gary Morrison, executive director at the Mental Welfare Commission, said: “Children and young people under the age of 18 who need hospital treatment for mental illness should, wherever possible, be treated in a specialist unit, designed to care for their age group.
“We have raised concerns in the past when we saw the numbers going to non-specialist, usually adult wards, rising, and last year we were glad to see a reversal of that trend.”
He added: “We know that services have been working hard across the country to achieve this change, and we welcome it.”
Sectioned at 13
Three years ago, Rian, who is autistic and has learning difficulties, was sectioned and admitted to hospital in Edinburgh.
For him it meant spending months on his own with only the medical staff for company.
For his family, it was a heart wrenching 11-month separation.
His grandmother says he should have been able to spend time with other youngsters during that time and that her family just want the best for him.
Marilyn Beagley, who lives in the capital, says her grandson keeps in regular contact with her, despite him now living at a residential school in Glasgow.
However, as of 7 November, his place at the school will be terminated and the challenge of finding a new place for him will begin again.
The commission believes that the reductions have been achieved by staffing “stability” in Scotland’s three specialist inpatient units.
There have also been improvements to admission and discharge procedures in these units and an expansion of services provided by Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs), the commission said.
The report also made two recommendations:
Admissions procedures to the three specialist units should be reviewed to improve out-of-hours referrals
Scottish government and health boards should review availability and access to intensive psychiatric care unit beds for young people nationally
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) welcomed the figures, but said there were still too many under-18s with mental illnesses being treated in the wrong wards.
“We have raised this issue previously with the Scottish government and are glad to see a reversal in this trend and note that services have been working hard across the country to address this,” a spokesman said.
“It should be noted, however, that there are currently only 48 specialist hospital beds provided by the NHS in Scotland for adolescents with mental health problems, despite increasing demand.”
The specialist units are in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow – but the SCSC said there was no inpatient provision north of Dundee.
Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said: “As the report confirms, this reduction reflects the Scottish government’s work to invest in and improve specialist child and adolescent mental health services across Scotland.
“That work is especially important as more young people are coming forward to seek help as the stigma surrounding mental health declines.
“While welcoming the significant step forward, I am aware there is much work still to do. That’s why we are continuing to focus on making further improvements through our 10-year Mental Health Strategy.”
Depression can cause a range of different symptoms. Some of them are regularly talked about. Many of them are not.Whatever symptoms we are experiencing, we are not alone. There are many other people all over the world who share the same struggles that we do.
1. BEING UNABLE TO MAKE DECISIONS
We can feel completely paralysed and unable to make decisions. They often aren’t particularly difficult decisions. It could be something as straightforward as deciding which jumper to wear. But our brains feel so slow and clogged up that we are unable to decide anything at all.
2. DREADING BEING ALONE
Although we often struggle socially, we can also dread being alone. When alone our thoughts and feelings can feel amplified. Without the distraction of other people, they can become completely overwhelming and all-consuming.
3. GETTING STUCK
Sometimes we get stuck. We might sit on the toilet and not move for half an hour. Sometimes we will drive home and then stay in our car, on the drive, for a while before making it into the house. We might run a bath and sit in it until it goes cold. Our body feels heavy and we just don’t have the energy or motivation to move.
4. HIDING IN BATHROOMS
Many people left their hiding in bathroom days behind once they left school. But we will often find ourselves diving for the nearest toilet for a bit of a break from the world. It can be at social situations, when out for a meal, when in town, or somewhere else. Sometimes we just need a bit of a break from the world, and a little bit of breathing space.
5. ISOLATING OURSELVES
We often struggle with social situations when we’re low. We don’t know what to do or say. We often don’t feel part of the group of people we’re with. We struggle to concentrate enough to follow conversations. We feel like we’re bad company and like people are ‘putting up’ with us. We feel like people don’t want us around. So we isolate ourselves. We stay away from people. To protect ourselves to some extent, but also to protect those around us.
6. NOT BEING ABLE TO EXPRESS OURSELVES
Sometimes we want to cry, but we can’t. Sometimes we want to talk, but we feel mute. Sometimes we want to be creative, but our creativity has all dried up. We rarely have the words, colours, or music to match our feelings. We don’t know how to help others understand what’s going on inside our heads. So we are silent.
7. NOT CARING ABOUT OUR SAFETY
We stop caring about whether we live or die. We don’t look when we cross the road. We don’t take as much care as we should when driving our car or riding our bike. We walk through a risky bit of town, in the dark, by ourselves. We don’t wear our bike helmet. We completely stop caring about our own personal safety.
8. NOT TAKING OUR MEDICATION
From the outside, it can be hard to understand why we wouldn’t take medication designed to help us feel better. But taking medication can be really hard – sometimes it can feel impossible. We feel hopeless, so trying medication can feel pointless. We don’t care about ourselves. We feel as though we deserve to feel rubbish because we are a bad person. We sometimes forget doses.
It can be really scary taking medication, too, because we don’t know how it will affect us. It might have unpleasant side effects, and results aren’t guaranteed. Sometimes we just get fed up of relying on medication to live.
9. PARANOID OR IRRATIONAL THINKING
We can experience paranoid and irrational thoughts. We become paranoid that we have done something wrong at work, even if nobody has done or said anything to cause us to think that. We can become irrational and get over-emotional about things that we know don’t really matter. We often know that our thoughts are somewhat irrational but still struggle to stop them or control them.
10. SEEING OR HEARING THINGS THAT AREN’T THERE
Sometimes we see or hear things that aren’t there. We might know they’re not there ourselves, or someone else might help us to realise. It can be really scary because it can feel as though we are unable to trust ourselves.
11. SLOWING DOWN
Depression slows us down. It can slow down our thinking. It can slow down our speech. It can slow down our movements. Sometimes this is obvious to those around us. It can be frustrating because our brains and bodies feel like they don’t work well enough for us to do the things we need to do.
12. TALKING TOO MUCH
There are times when we talk too much or too quickly. We want to hide how low we’re feeling or don’t want others to know that we’re struggling, so we over-do it. Sometimes, we don’t want to admit to ourselves that we’re struggling. So we stay super-busy and appear exceptionally cheerful to try and hide what’s really going on.
13. TOO EXHAUSTED TO CARRY ON
We wake up exhausted. We go to work exhausted. We come home exhausted. We go to bed exhausted. We are always exhausted, however much we rest and however much we sleep. It can feel as though we are too exhausted to carry on. Too exhausted to change anything. We carry on anyway because it’s all we know to do. But we are exhausted.
HANG ON IN THERE
Depression can cause such a range of symptoms, but help is available. Whatever we are experiencing, we are never alone. Others have felt the same way and it can get better. Life won’t always be this way.
Please help us to help others and share this post, you never know who might need it.