Mental Ill Health (Impact of Pandemic and Restrictions)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 26th November 2020.

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Photo of Alex Cole-Hamilton Alex Cole-Hamilton Liberal Democrat

4. To ask the Scottish Government how it will respond to reports of increases in mental ill health as a result of the pandemic and the restrictions. (S5O-04796)

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

On 8 October, we published Scotland’s mental health transition and recovery plan, which outlines our response to the mental health effects of the pandemic. The plan is comprehensive and contains over 100 actions. It outlines a set of key actions that we will take forward at pace. It is fully informed by a consideration of evidence provided by our mental health research advisory group. As well as promoting good mental health and wellbeing, the plan prioritises rapid and easily accessible support for those in distress and the safe, effective treatment of people living with mental illness.

A tailored programme of work will help individual NHS boards to respond effectively to the anticipated increase in demand in the months ahead. The plan also covers the mental health impact on people living with long-term physical health conditions and disabilities.

Photo of Alex Cole-Hamilton Alex Cole-Hamilton Liberal Democrat

Yesterday, Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr presented a troubling new report to the Scottish Police Authority, laying out the scale of the mental health crisis in our communities. He said:

“The level of demand has outstripped capacity” and Police Scotland’s

“professional ability to deal with it.”

He also said that the statistics that were published this week, showing 833 probable suicides in Scotland in the year before the pandemic, reflected an increase that

“should worry us all”.

I have asked the minister before about improving suicide reporting so that we can get closer to having real-time alerts and so that crisis response services can be better informed and prepared. Will the minister make a commitment that that will happen for the new year?

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

I thank Alex Cole-Hamilton for raising this very important issue. Every life lost is a tragedy, and my sympathies go to those who have been bereaved by suicide.

We work very closely with the suicide prevention leadership group, and we will continue to do so. A range of work is going on. For the sake of brevity, I will not speak about all of it, but I am more than happy to write to Alex Cole-Hamilton, outlining the breadth of work that is on-going.

For example, in September, with the suicide prevention leadership group, we launched a public awareness campaign and new branding for suicide prevention in Scotland. The united to prevent suicide programme is aimed at helping to break the stigma around talking about suicide and at assisting people to access support more readily.