SAMH comment on new mental health statistics

2nd March 2021

Published today, the latest quarterly statistics from Public Health Scotland show that adults and children are still not receiving mental health services when they need them.

The figures show that that 1 in 4 children and young people were turned away from specialist mental health services during October to December 2020: this figure previously stood at 1 in 5. And 20% of the 17,023 adults who started psychological therapies during this period waited longer than the official target of 18 weeks.

None of the 14 regional NHS Boards met the 18 week target for adult psychological therapies services in Scotland, while only five did so for children and young people’s services.

Jo Anderson, Director of External Affairs at SAMH said,

“Scotland’s mental health services were struggling before the pandemic, and today’s figures demonstrate once again that we need a radical new plan. Young people deserve the right to get help the first time they ask, without fearing that they will be turned away. And the need for quick access to psychological wellbeing support has never been greater.”

Last month, we launched Standing Up for Scotland’s Mental Health, our manifesto ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections. Informed by over 2,500 people across Scotland, many of whom have lived experience of mental health problems, Standing Up for Scotland’s Mental Health, sets out 38 actions to make mental health a national priority.  

Among our recommendations for real change, we are calling for redoubled efforts on suicide prevention, action now to support children and young people and rapid access to psychological wellbeing support for adults.

Our research published last year showed that almost half of people with mental health problems in Scotland felt they did not get care or treatment because of the pandemic. And more than eight out of ten child and adolescent psychiatrists in Scotland who responded to a recent poll said specialist children’s mental health services were very insufficiently or insufficiently resourced.

To find out more about Standing Up for Scotland’s Mental Health, to read our full manifesto and find out how you can help drive real change for mental health, visit