In the latest of a raft of radical, bold policies Scottish Labour leadership contender Richard Leonard has announced his commitment to give mental health parity of esteem with physical health – improving mental health services across Scotland.
These new measures announced by Richard Leonard include ensuring all secondary schools have access to school counsellors, protecting mental health budgets and ensuring that there are mental health professionals throughout the health service – from Primary Care to A&E.
Scottish Labour leadership candidate Richard Leonard said,
“In Scotland there is a mental health crisis - reports from teachers showed that 77 per cent of them had observed signs of poverty-related mental health issues among pupils.
“The scale of the numbers of people becoming ill, especially our young people, is an indictment on wider society - as is how we look after and treat them when they become ill. Scotland needs a vision where mental health really is given the same parity and is prioritised in exactly the same way as those people treated with physical illnesses.
“Mental health should be given parity of esteem with how we treat physical illness. The Scottish Government says it supports this aim but as usual with the SNP Scottish Government their warm words and rhetoric do not match the cold hard reality of their actions and support.
“Having this level of ambition on responding to mental health means training many more staff, but also challenging the social issues that are so often found to impact on mental ill health – including poverty, social exclusion, lack of jobs and opportunities. In order to reach this parity with physical health, we must also ensure that mental health support is not limited to medication and that access to quality therapy is secured.
“My overriding mission is to tackle poverty and inequality, to provide hope and end the feelings of helplessness felt by so many of our young people. This will in turn help tackle the root causes of mental illnesses. After all there is little doubt that prevention is better than cure.”
To improve mental health services across Scotland, Richard Leonard announced the following commitments:
- To review the level of funding given to mental health services for young people with a view to increasing the funding allocated
- Ring-fence mental health budgets and ensure funding reaches the frontline
- Ensure that there are mental health professionals throughout our health service, from primary care settings to A&E departments.
- Adopt a ‘whole school approach’ to improve the mental health of our children and young people.
- Guarantee access to a school-based counsellor for every pupil in Scotland. Access to school-based counselling is key to early intervention in mental health, and has the potential to transform the wellbeing and mental health of our young people.
- Ensure all secondary schools in Scotland have access to a qualified and appropriately-experienced school counsellor, providing accessible counselling to young people who need it
- Restore the bursaries for educational psychologists, reverse the decimation of the educational psychology workforce and make sure that young people in education receive the help they need. It is an absolutely flawed logic to cut the bursary, which has resulted in fewer educational psychologists, at the same time as more children are being identified with additional support needs
- Develop a programme of mental health training for all staff in schools and those involved in delivering education.
- Allow children and young people to stay in specialist services until the age of 25, to ensure that they are getting the support they need in the transition to adulthood.
- Back equal protection of children under the law, by protecting children against physical punishment – the evidence shows that physical punishment has long-term negative effects on mental health and wellbeing, and the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child is clear that any legal provision which allow any violent punishment of children should be repealed. There are already 52 countries around the world which have introduced equal protection for children.
- Support a ban on so-called ‘mosquito’ devices, which emit a high-pitched noise that can only be heard by young people. Far from reducing anti-social behaviour, these devices are indiscriminate and harmful to the wellbeing of young people. They have no place in Scotland’s public places.
- Support the introduction of compulsory Personal and Social Education in schools which is fully inclusive of LGBTI equality issues, as called for by the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign.
- Conduct a full, swift review of rejected referrals to CAMHS to establish why 17,000 children were rejected from CAMHS in the last three years, and what is happening to these young people when they are turned away from statutory services.
- Compel the Mental Health Minister to give a yearly report to Parliament on the state of the nation’s mental health and update MSPs on the progress of the Government’s ten year mental health strategy.
Richard Leonard added:
“The direct physical and mental health consequences of poverty and unemployment on people and communities are well recognised. My commitments to make work more secure and better-paid, as well as investing in our industry and social infrastructure to create good employment opportunities, will also play a significant role in improving the health of our people.
“Improving the physical environment is also important. My plans to invest in communities, through community hubs, building social housing and properly resourcing local government will assist in this. It is commonly understood that people living near parks, playgrounds and good-quality walking and cycling links have better mental health
“In all these areas and in helping people, especially our young people, who need treatment the Scottish Government is failing. The Scottish Government set a standard for the NHS in Scotland to deliver a maximum wait of 18 weeks from December 2014 for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services. But they have failed miserably to properly care for all those young people who need treatment. It is a scandal and abject public policy failure that one in five young people are waiting longer than 18 weeks for mental health treatment and that 17,000 young people have not received mental health services in the past three years.”