A charity has warned an ambitious redesign is needed for mental health services in Scotland following covid or “lives will be at risk”.
It comes after a new survey found nearly half – 43% – of people with mental health problems felt they did not get care or treatment because of the pandemic.
The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) figures also show 45% felt the quality of their treatment had got worse, while 58% said opportunities to discuss their care or treatment had worsened.
The amount of people who felt they were coping very or quite badly doubled from almost a quarter in the months before the pandemic to almost half by August.
Those experiencing thoughts of suicide rose to 59% – up by 3% from before pre-lockdown – and 10% of people had not sought treatment even though they felt they needed it.
The survey – the first of its kind – has been released as the country marks six months since lockdown began and many NHS services were paused.
In August, Health Minister Jeane Freeman said she wanted mental health services to remobilise as soon as possible.
Billy Watson, Chief Executive at SAMH, said it was clear the pandemic has caused “serious problems” for people who need mental health services.
“Nationwide, fewer people are being referred for or receiving psychological therapies and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), and we’re instead seeing a shift away from people seeking professional help and instead turning to friends and family for support,” he said.
“While there have been steps to increase the capacity of mental health services, we now require an ambitious and well-resourced plan to redesign a system that was already under stress before the pandemic.
“Failure to do so will put lives at risk.”
Users of mental health services also highlighted concerns about communication, with almost half receiving no information on how their treatment would be affected by the pandemic.
Michael, who uses mental health services, said he has struggled with his mental health for 10 years, but the past year had been particularly difficult.
“I was referred for psychiatric treatment in early March and was told they would see me again soon.
“The ironic thing is shortly after that appointment I was watching the Scottish government’s lockdown announcement and it said there would be funding for mental health, so I felt reassured support would continue.
“A few days later a letter arrived to say I wouldn’t be seeing my psychiatrist anytime soon.
“It’s September now and I haven’t heard anything since. I feel like I’ve been left high and dry.”
However people were more likely than not to be satisfied with most aspects of the support they did receive since March.
Suleman, a SAMH support worker based in North Lanarkshire highlighted that the pandemic generally had a “negative impact”:
“People were isolated from loved ones, had a more distant relationship with their mental health team and the inability to take part in their hobbies and usual team caused difficulty.
“There were cases in which the mental health team was bit less responsive and the fact they couldn’t meet face to face didn’t allow the person to interact in the same way.”