Growing concerns of mental health crisis in Scotland

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Illustration of a person's head with labels of mental health

Credit: Flickr/The People Speak!

Joanne Krus
Deputy News Editor

The annual Scottish Health Survey has revealed that the levels of “mental distress” are currently at an all-time high. This has added to the growing concern of a mental health crisis in Scotland.

The results show that in the past year, 19% of adults over 16 years old have exhibited signs of a possible psychiatric disorder. This is the highest level of possible psychiatric disorders since the survey started in 2008.

The Scottish Health Survey has been designed to provide data for NHS Health Boards on health of adults and children living in Scotland. Over 4,000 adults and almost 2,000 children took part in the survey. The survey not only looked at mental health, but also general health, alcohol consumption, smoking, diet, physical activity and obesity.

To measure mental wellbeing, researchers used the General Health Questionnaire 12 (GHQ-12) to assess 14 different areas of participants mental health. Participants were asked to report how frequently they had experienced issues with sleep, concentration, self-esteem, confidence, stress, and depression. The questionnaire worked as a scoring system from a scale of one to five, with one meaning that they never experience an issue and five meaning they experience it all the time.

Among young women aged 16 to 24 years old, 27% of them scored four or more points, which indicates a possible psychiatric disorder.

Dr Jane Morris, a consultant psychiatrist at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, spoke to the Herald about these findings: “Young females aged between 16-24 seem to be experiencing a particular deterioration. This reflects in data from virtually every study of student health that has been conducted this century, and it’s not only in Scotland that this is found.”

Dr Morris also claimed that social media and poor body image were to be blamed.

However, the survey has not been the only cause of concern for the mental health crisis in Scotland. There has also been a 31.7% increase in referrals related to mental health problems in Scotland, which was revealed in an investigation by the Daily Record. The investigation also showed that 36,362 children and teenagers pursued medical help because of mental health issues.

These figures have put pressure on the Scottish Government to improve mental health services for young people. The shadow health secretary for Scottish Labour, Monica Lennon MSP, said far too many young people are still being failed, and it’s just not good enough.

“The health secretary must get to grips with this crisis and ensure our young people get help when they need it,” Lennon said.

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said, “I think it is to be welcomed that the stigma around mental health is breaking down and people are coming forward to get the help they need.”

Sturgeon also said every secondary school will have access to a counselling service by next September, and that there will be an additional 250 school nurses by 2022.