We welcome the publication of a new 10-year mental health strategy by the Scottish Government, however we are disappointed at the lack of detail around many of the proposed actions.
The strategy rightly identifies early intervention and prevention as key to addressing mental health concerns early before they become more acute and require more intensive intervention and treatment. However, we feel that much of that early intervention outlined in this strategy is still clinical in focus. We and our partners in the Third Sector have expressed before, the need to move away from identifying mental health as simply a medical issue, and provide better and more early support and services in community settings. Early intervention can prevent the need for referral to specialist health services, but the strategy remains unclear about how we achieve that and how the broader Third Sector is engaged in the process.
Aberlour has a particular focus on supporting families affected by perinatal mental illness. We welcome the implementation of the Managed Clinical Network and supported the proposal in our consultation response to this strategy. However, whilst this strategy rightly identifies the extent of the issue of perinatal mental illness, with 1 in 5 new and expectant mums affected, it fails to mention any provision for community-based models that provide early intervention support for those mums experiencing low mood, anxiety or isolation. We know from our own experience that community- based models of support which provide both practical and emotional support are hugely effective in addressing perinatal mental illness, mitigating the need for clinical interventions entirely for most mums in such situations.
We are also concerned with the lack of detail around what additional measures will be taken to address mental health concerns for all looked after children. We welcome that this strategy identifies the need to focus on those young people on the edge of, and in, secure care, as they often have particular needs around mental health. However, looked after children generally are up to five times more likely to experience severe mental health problems than their non-looked after peers – even when taking into account poverty and disadvantage – with 45% of looked after children identified as having at least one mental health problem. Rates of suicide are also higher amongst looked after children and young people. Despite the significant vulnerability and numerous additional challenges experienced by all looked after children and young people, and resultantly the multiple barriers to addressing mental health issues and accessing relevant services and support, it is disappointing that this strategy does not identify more robust actions to address these issues.
We hope that the Scottish Government recognises the experiences of those organsiations that provide the necessary early intervention and prevention services in communities every day, which aim to address and alleviate mental health concerns for vulnerable children, young people and families across Scotland. The skills, experience and expertise of these orgnaisations in addressing these issues can be invaluable in supporting the Scottish Government to fulfill its overall ambitions for this strategy. We hope the Scottish Government takes the time to consider and review the actions contained within this strategy, and we welcome any opportunity to support them to do so.
SallyAnn Kelly, Chief Executive
For any further information please contact Martin Canavan, Policy & Participation Officer Martin.Canavan@aberlour.org.uk