The programme for government set out a package of measures to support positive mental health and prevent ill health, backed by £0.25 billion of additional investment. That includes
“more than £60 million in additional school counselling services”, which will support 350 counsellors; around £20 million for 250 additional school nurses; and
“80 additional counsellors in Further and Higher Education”.
As part of children’s mental health week, we have announced today that we will produce new guidance on the healthy use of social media and screen time. The guidance, which will be designed in collaboration with young people, will seek to address some of the issues that they face around social media and mental wellbeing.
In its report in December, the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland raised concerns about the lack of intensive psychiatric provision for young people, noting that
“work to explore the issues” had “stalled”. Last year, the number of young people who were admitted to non-specialist wards rose to 90, and 14 young people were admitted to adult psychiatric care units. Does the Deputy First Minister think that that is acceptable? What plans does the Government have to increase the nationwide provision of specialist mental health beds for young people, including adolescent intensive psychiatric care units?
Mary Fee raises an intensely serious issue. We have to ensure that young people who have mental health and wellbeing challenges receive support at the earliest possible opportunity in the manifestation of those conditions. For that reason, we have to use the investment that the Government is currently making to strengthen what we might all agree are preventative interventions. If we do so, we will minimise the need for acute psychiatric interventions, which is the specific issue that Mary Fee raised. The earlier we can support young people, the greater our chance of reducing the need to admit young people to in-patient psychiatric units.
We cannot see those issues in different compartments; we have to see them as part of the whole strategy, which is exactly what the Minister for Mental Health is focused on delivering. We will take into account the issues that are raised about acute psychiatric demand, but I stress to Parliament the importance that we attach to handling and resolving such issues as part of an overall preventative approach, which will be in the best interests of young people in Scotland.