Main Area for Change 2: Rethinking How We Deal With Common Mental Health Problems
Common mental health problems like depression and anxiety can be serious and long lasting. In the past, they have been treated in the same sort of way as more complex mental health conditions. We need to change this.
We need to see to it that people who suffer from depression and anxiety don't just get help from doctors, but also from family and friends too. Sufferers can also do a lot to help themselves, and that helps them to have better mental health in the long term. We want to make information and support more widely available.
This approach will not work for everyone. Services as they are now will continue to be an important part of the mental health system.
Faster access to Psychological Therapies
The Scottish Government is committed to delivering faster access to psychological therapies for people with mental health problems. People with severe and long lasting mental illness and those with more common illnesses like depression and alcohol addiction need to be able to get therapies more quickly.
By December 2014, we will make sure that no-one will wait longer than 18 weeks to get treatment for mental health problems, no matter how old they are or what their illness is.
Equal Access To Services
Some people find it easier than others to access mental health services. That can be because some people feel they are discriminated against, or because there are gaps in services.
We need to find out who is accessing services and who isn't, and improve the system so we can meet everyone's needs.
Social Prescribing and Self Help
Improving access to psychological therapies is just one part of making a better mental health service. NHS Boards and their partners also offer information and advice, self-help, counselling and other treatments like exercise, to help people who are feeling psychological distress.
Many people prefer to do something themselves to improve their mental health, and we know that physical exercise and social activities help people to recover from mental illness.
Some people don't access these services because they don't know about them, they don't think they are for them, or they are nervous about going for the first time.
We need to raise awareness about these services and make sure people know the good they can do for their own mental health.
Mental Health and Alcohol
There are strong links between depression and drinking too much alcohol.
The NHS in Scotland has been working in hospitals to spot when alcohol is causing depression and encourage people to drink less.
We will work with the NHS in Scotland to improve the treatment of people whose mental health is affected by alcohol.
Mental Health and Debt
Debt causes stress and anxiety, and can cause other mental health problems. We know that people with mental health problems who are in debt are more likely to kill themselves. We have helped to train staff at the Citizen's Advice Bureau to recognise these issues so they can support their clients better.
When a person has a life altering event, it may cause harm leading to different kinds of mental health problems like depression, addiction to drugs or alcohol, or physical symptoms.
We are getting better at understanding the effects of trauma on mental health, but services don't always meet the patient's needs.
We need to learn more about this and change services so that people who have suffered trauma get all the help they need.
In recent years, we have been getting better at understanding illnesses and behaviours like self harm and eating disorders.
We need to get better at understanding the causes of these illnesses, rather than just dealing with the results.
Sometimes people with these illnesses will ask for help, but at other times they might withdraw, and fail to keep appointments.
We are working with the NHS, social work, the police and others to come up with the best way to help people who are in distress.
Mental Health of Older People
A lot of work is being done to help older people with dementia. However, more older people suffer from depression and anxiety than dementia, and more work needs to be done to help them. More than anyone else, older people are unlikely to have their mental illnesses recognised and treated.
We will work with the NHS to provide better specialist services for older people, and make sure they get the same level of care and support as everyone else.
Mental Health and those with Physical Illness
Some people with long-term physical illnesses also have mental health problems like depression and anxiety. We have found that these people are less likely to make a recovery.
We need to work with GPs to get better at telling when patients with long-term illnesses have depression or anxiety, and give them the help they need.
Email: Katherine Christie
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