4th May 2021
Our final campaign blog comes from Chris Creegan, Chair of SAMH’s Trustee Board, who explores the opportunity for change an election can bring, and the need for immediate action on Scotland’s mental health.
Elections are a moment to look forward. The coming Holyrood election, touted as the most significant since devolution, is no exception. And SAMH has a clear call – Stand Up for Scotland’s Mental Health – along with three core priorities and 38 key actions. The devil is in the detail, of course. But who could disagree with that simple premise?
Yet here’s the rub. Five years ago, SAMH’s manifesto for the elections had another clear call – Ask Once, Get Help Fast. So simple that everyone agreed with it – and said it should happen. But it has not – with profound consequences. Anyone who has needed help or knows someone who has, understands why timeliness matters: sometimes, it can be a matter of life and death.
SAMH research shows that among people with existing mental health problems, more than half (56%) feel that their mental health has worsened during the pandemic. Yet 1 in 10 have not even been able to speak to their GP and more than a quarter report that their treatment has stopped. We know that even before the pandemic, critical indicators – CAMHS waiting times, suicide figures – were moving in the wrong direction.
As with so many things, COVID has exposed fault lines in our society. In the case of mental health, it has added gravity to a situation which, despite good intentions and strategies, was already unacceptable. Whatever the outcome of the election, it is way past time to turn this around. We cannot eradicate mental ill health – it is part of who we are. But we cannot accept a failure to treat it either.
In Scotland we are good at shared aspiration – and that makes us feel better. But we are often poor at implementation. And when it comes to mental health that means those who need help most can end up feeling worse. At SAMH we have no interest in apportioning blame or in playing politics. Our only concern is that things change for the better.
During the pandemic we have shown that bold short termism works – redirecting resources to where they are needed most. But it is a means to an end – not an end in itself. The solution to our mental health crisis is not a choice between quick fix and long-term vision. We need both. But short term is not soon – it is now. And long term is not a decade – it is a generation.
To join us and Stand Up for Mental Health visit: samh.org.uk/standup