Fife mental health crisis: New bid to tackle long wait for treatment for young folk

Recent research reveals the extent of the mental health crisis in the Kingdom and across Scotland as the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) calls on the Scottish Government to make mental health a priority.

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 4:00 pm
FeelsFM: the emoji-powered virtual jukebox created by See Me Scotland hopes to hear from young users in Scotland about how adults and families can best support them in times of stress and poor mental health.
FeelsFM: the emoji-powered virtual jukebox created by See Me Scotland hopes to hear from young users in Scotland about how adults and families can best support them in times of stress and poor mental health.

New statistics released last week by See Me, Scotland’s national strategy to improve mental health across Scotland, revealed that 71% of young people in Mid Scotland and Fife feel young people’s concerns or struggles about their mental health are dismissed by adults.

The figures for Mid Scotland and Fife showing a 5% increase on the national average for Scotland of 66% have placed an ongoing mental health crisis in the region and across Scotland under the spotlight as mental health services see more demand for services than ever before.

Over half of the young Fifers surveyed by Censuswide for See Me Scotland also said that they wouldn’t tell someone if they were having difficulties with how they were feeling.

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Over 50% of young patients referred to Fife's CAMHS services were recently revealed to have waited over the Scottish Government's recommended wait time of 18 weeks.

The research has highlighted just how isolating it can be to experience conditions and feelings like anxiety, depression, stress or suicidal ideation when such issues are still heavily stigmatised or subject to dismissal.

It is with this in mind that the campaign has relaunched FeelsFM, its virtual jukebox letting young people express themselves and what they are looking for in support from adults and families in a distinctly Gen Z fashion, with emojis, playlists and games to suit a range of moods.

The platform has received over 5000 visitors since it first launched, helping See Me to work towards its goal of ending mental health discrimination and stigmatisation alongside its volunteers and the Scottish Government.

Wendy Halliday, See Me director, said: “We know that the pandemic has had a huge impact on the lives of our young people, and the new-look FeelsFM will give us a chance to better understand the pressures that they face – and I would really encourage young people across Fife to get involved.

Mark Ruskell MSP said that while understandable, the lengthy waiting times for children and young adults referred to Fife's CAMHS services "simply shouldn't be tolerated".

“The platform will focus on the areas young people think are the most important right now, including their interaction with families and the adults who may be responsible in supporting their mental health, like teachers, doctors and managers.

Ms Halliday added: “Nobody, no matter what age they are, should feel belittled or as if their experiences don’t matter when it comes to mental health.”

See Me’s research, showing the extent of such stigma in Fife, has come as others are sounding the alarm over a continuing mental health crisis among the region’s young people.

Scottish Greens MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, Mark Ruskell, recently drew attention to the backlog of patients waiting over the target 18 week-long wait period to access Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Fife – with almost 50% of those waiting to begin treatment with CAMHS under NHS Fife delayed beyond the 18 week period as of March 2021.

The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) took to Fife streets recently, with Sam's Wellbeing on Wheels making stops across the Kingdom to encourage people struggling with their mental health to talk.

The same data, showing waiting times for CAMHS treatment between January and March 2021, revealed that a further 17% of NHS Fife patients have been waiting to start treatment for over a year.

“Everyone understands that the pandemic placed health services under enormous pressure but that will be cold comfort for the young people in Fife who’ve been waiting for more than a year to receive the help they need,” Mr Ruskell said.

“The target referral time of 18 weeks is far too long wait in itself, so having to hang on for more than a year to receive medical attention is completely unacceptable.

"Delays like this simply shouldn’t be tolerated.”

He continued: “The longer people are forced to wait for support the more likely they are to reach a crisis point and to suffer lasting damage to their mental health.

“The need for functioning CAMHS has become all the more acute as a result of the pandemic, especially for children who’ve experienced so much disruption to their normal lives in the last year.

“That’s why NHS Fife must urgently address this backlog to ensure that no child or young person is left behind as we begin to recover from the pandemic.”

A number of initiatives seeking to tackle the rising tide of people struggling with mental health issues and disorders are now underway.

The return of SAMH’s therapeutic gardening projects across Scotland last month has seen the reopening of Kirkcaldy’s Evergreen and Growing Auchmuty in Glenrothes, offering people a way to stay active, healthy and grounded through gardening and growing in their local communities.

Meanwhile, a new campaign from SAMH and Sportscotland, backed by Sir Chris Hoy called ‘Feel Your Personal Best’ has emphasised the importance of exercise as a way to improve both mental and physical health after months of lockdown.

The findings follow results of a recent survey carried out across Scotland by ScotPulse, in which over half of the 109 respondents from Kirkcaldy said that being active during the pandemic had a positive impact on their wellbeing – with a further 63% adding that staying active helped them to relax and switch off.

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Sport’s positive impact on mental wellbeing in Kirkcaldy

Likewise, roving cafe Sam’s Wellbeing on Wheels has been making stops across the Kingdom this week to try and encourage those experiencing any mental health struggles, suicidal feelings or in need of support to jump on board to chat to counsellors.

Alex Cumming, Assistant Director of Delivery and Development at SAMH said: “Even before the pandemic, Scotland’s mental health system was struggling.

"We believe that you should be able to ask once and get help fast – but that isn’t always the case for people in Fife and across Scotland.

"That’s why we’re calling on the Scottish Government to make mental health a priority as we rebuild and move forward.

“Throughout the pandemic SAMH has continued to give face-to-face support to the most vulnerable and remote support to people in Fife and we will continue to work with partners to ensure that people with mental health problems get the support they need.”

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