A Labour win could influence the future of children’s mental health in Scotland

The Labour Party are aiming to increase Scotland’s mental health services for children should they win the general election.

The party has promised an £845 investment into children’s mental health services if they win a majority government. If the investment is realised, a portion would be dispensed into Scotland.

Incumbant MP Ian Murray of Edinburgh South says that while Labour will fund the money, Scotland has the final say on where it goes.

Murray said: “The Barnett formula would give approximately £84.5m to Scotland but it would be up to the Scottish Government how it was spent here.” 

Murray believes better access to free services for youth is in Scotland’s future.

If he is re-elected, he will use his influence to make mental health more accessible for young people and aims to have a mental health professional available in every high school.

A study from December, 2018 revealed the following about the current state of mental health services in public schools across Scotland:

  • 24% of schools do not have a mental health support worker.
  • 70% of teachers are trained to handle mental health problems.
  • 13% of teachers have received mental health first aid training.

In addition, 70% of children suffering from mental illness will go without support during their early years.

Jen Menzies is the Director at Royal High School in Edinburgh and head of the institution’s mental health programme.

Menzies said available mental health services are integral to public schools and that, within her school, nearly three quarters of the school’s staff are trained as mental health ambassadors and wear green lanyards to signify their approachability to students. 

She said: “It’s fundamental because wellbeing is the foundation of all achievement and academic success in school. For a pupil to be able to progress in all aspects of their learning, they need to be in a place where they can learn about and access wellbeing.”

Menzies further explained that the school’s guidance counsellors are “overwhelmed” by the demand of mental health services.

The school also has a People’s Support Officer, who is trained in the Low Intensity Anxiety Management (LIAM) program, and is available for target counselling.

Menzies added that the Officer is fully booked for “the five days she’s at school with us.”

The Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy outlines a ten year plan to improve mental health resources in Scotland. One of the main aims of the plan is to improve mental health training for people working in educational environments.

Fiona Milne, communications officer at mental health charity Penumbra, says that while increased accessibility is important, it is also critical to make sure the most effective help is being offered. She hopes to see a more personal approach to mental health services in the future.

Milne said: “We know that the person-centred approach works and we believe that there needs to be a radical shift in how young people’s services are delivered.”

A poll by The Times found that over one fifth (21%) of SNP voters are not satisfied with the government’s handling of NHS Scotland.

Mental Health Today recently found one in five children are being rejected from mental health services in Scotland. Last night, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was questioned by BBC’s Andrew Marr on NHS Scotland’s performance.

Marr specifically highlighted the issue of waitlists for children’s mental health services, which can be more than a year long.

When asked to apologise, Sturgeon responded: “Andrew, I apologise to anyone who doesn’t get the treatment on the health service that I want them to get.”

The vote for the general election happens this Thursday.