By Bill Heaney
Speaking on World Suicide Prevention Day, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has called on the Scottish Government to provide “new hope” to all those struggling with their mental health, urging ministers to take action to cut suicide rates and ensure access to robust crisis care.
Earlier this week, figures from the National Records of Scotland showed that there were 762 probable suicides in Scotland in 2022, an increase of 1% from the previous year. Those in the most deprived areas are now 2.6 times more likely to die by suicide than those in the least deprived areas.
Mr Cole-Hamilton, pictured right, said: “Suicide has a devastating and everlasting impact on families and communities. Today, we are reminded of the urgent need to strengthen prevention and give new hope to all those struggling.
“The shadow of lockdown and the soaring cost of living have materially worsened the mental health of many Scots.
“To make matters worse, the SNP made the reckless decision to cut £50 million from the mental health budget. Now, thousands of children and adults are waiting more than a year for the treatment they desperately need.
“Saving lives must be a key priority for this government.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats want a properly funded, world-beating system that will tackle our mental health emergency. As well as providing fresh funds for local and accessible mental health services, my party would roll out more counsellors in schools, GPs, A&E departments and alongside police and prison staff. We would also provide access to robust 24/7 crisis care.”
When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.
You can find out more about World Suicide Prevention Day here
You can find the National Record of Scotland figures here
To repair Scotland’s mental health crisis, Scottish Liberal Democrats would:
- Return to appointing a dedicated Mental Health Minister.
- Increase the number of training places for psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, especially those specialising in CAMHS.
- Set a new target for additional mental health professionals working with GPs, in A&Es, and alongside police and prison staff.
- Set a new target for the roll-out of counsellors to ensure access in all schools and at every stage of education.
- Add counsellors to NHS workforce planning so their skills can help more people.
- Listen to the experience of frontline mental health staff through a staff assembly.
- Ramp up training so that every workplace can be offered the benefit of a mental health first aider.
- Establish a single point of contact for those on waiting lists so that people only need tell their story once.
- Create new dedicated specialist mental health beds for children and young people north of Dundee, and beds for new mothers north of Livingston, ending the scandals of long journeys for treatment and people being separated from their support networks.
- Set a fresh ambition to reduce waiting times. 18 weeks is too long to wait for mental health treatment to begin and should not be the normal target in the long-term. When that target is finally met, for the first time ever, it should trigger a new ambition to progressively lower the target to 9 weeks.
You can find out more about Scottish Liberal Democrat plans for mental health here
Top picture: Gardening projects are being organised to help mental health at Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow.