A “transformational” approach is needed to prevent a mental health crisis after the pandemic, a charity has said.
The Mental Health Foundation Scotland has launched a manifesto urging the next Scottish Government to do more to prevent the root causes of poor mental health in the wake of Covid-19.
It comes as new research commissioned by the charity found that more than half (51%) of Scots are not confident they would receive quick access to mental health support if they went to their GP for help.
Less than half (48%) of those questioned said they are likely to seek professional help for their mental health, however, more than two thirds (68%) said they would be likely to seek professional help for a mild to moderate health problem if there was a guarantee they would get access to appropriate and timely support.
The foundation is proposing a “Mental Health Guarantee” to ensure that people with mild to moderate mental health problems are referred to appropriate community support within six weeks.
Lee Knifton, director of Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “The next Scottish Government could face a huge upsurge in people seeking mental health support following the pandemic with social isolation, trauma, bereavement and financial challenges all increasing the risk of poor mental health.
“A significant number of Scots have said they’re not confident they’d receive quick access or the right support from their GP if needed, and they are right to be concerned given many services are already overwhelmed by demand.
“We can’t just treat our way out of the approaching crisis. The time is now for a transformational approach to mental health in Scotland which is why we’re calling for urgent action to create a Wellbeing Society.”
He called for action to tackle the root causes of poor mental health.
The Mental Health Guarantee would ensure that people needing help for problems such as anxiety or depression are quickly referred to community programmes such as exercise referral schemes, local groups and peer support, or talking therapies like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).
This would reduce the number of people reaching crisis point, ease pressure on clinical mental health services and increase the range of options open to GPs, the charity said.
The poll of 1024 adults, carried out by YouGov between March 2-4, also found that only 15% of those questioned are satisfied with current measures to reduce poverty in Scotland.
The manifesto sets out 14 points of action for the next Scottish Government, including that mental health education should be embedded within the Curriculum for Excellence, giving every pupil the tools to protect and improve their mental health and tackle stigma.
It also calls for a new Health and Wellbeing Fund to be established to help head teachers invest in pupil wellbeing in the aftermath of Covid-19 and says that, within two years, the next Scottish Government should publish its first Wellbeing Budget with radical measures to end poverty and prevent a Covid-19 unemployment crisis.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Mental health is an absolute priority for this government. Last month, we announced an additional £120m for a Mental Health Recovery and Renewal Fund, which is the single largest investment in mental health in the history of devolution.
“This will prioritise work across a range of mental health need, with particular focus on community support, improving specialist services, addressing long waiting times, and clearing waiting list backlogs in order to promote the conditions for good mental health and wellbeing at population level.
“We want to make sure that safe, effective treatment and care is there for people living with mental illness and that there is clear signposting to ensure those who need it get rapid and easily accessible help, advice and support.
“We know that the Covid-19 pandemic has been distressing for many people and our Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan lays out key areas of mental health need that have arisen as a result of Covid-19 and lockdown, alongside more than 100 actions that we are taking in response.
“The total £262.1m budget for mental health and autism in the coming financial year more than doubles the budget for 2021/22 when compared to 2020, and takes total anticipated spend on mental health in 2021/22 to in excess of £1.2bn.
“This level of investment shows the priority we are placing on mental health – it will underpin our continuing work to improve mental health services, as well as ensuring good mental wellbeing at a population level, a comprehensive distress response, and the right help and support in our communities.”