1 in 4 people in Scotland will suffer mental health problems at some point in their lifetime. Whether it’s depression, bipolar, anorexia, anxiety or another condition, they take a huge toll on the individual -and often on their family too. Many people find it hard to seek help, and when they do, too often they don’t get the support they need.
Aside from the personal cost, there is also a massive cost to the economy – estimated at over £10billion per year in Scotland.
Yet for far too long, mental health has been the Cinderella of the health service, not recognised as of equal importance as physical health. Anyone who has suffered from a mental health condition will tell you – it is every bit as important.
That’s why Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that in England from April there will be the first ever waiting time standards for mental health treatment. This means that patients needing talking therapies - for issues like depression - will be guaranteed treatment in six weeks with a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks. I would love the Scottish Government to commit to this as well.
The SNP Government’s target is for at least 90% of Psychological Therapies patients to start treatment within 18 weeks of referral by the end of March 2015. Performance so far suggests these targets may not be met. SNP Ministers must ensure mental health services are treated as seriously as physical health services.
We need to tackle the stigma attached to mental illness. That’s why the Lib Dem 2015 general election manifesto includes a commitment to £500m of extra funding for improved mental health care, and in this Coalition Government we have increased spending on support for issues like eating disorders.
In 2012 the UK Government enshrined in law parity between mental and physical health. I think it’s time the Scottish Government follows suit. If you agree with me then please visit my webpage joswinson.org/mentalhealth and sign my petition calling on SNP Ministers to act now on mental health.