There are warnings of a “mental health crisis” among young people, with thousands waiting over a year for specialist help.
It comes after figures published by Public Health Scotland indicate a rise in the number of patients who have waited more than 52 weeks to begin treatment.
The statistics show that at the end of September this year, 1978 young people were still waiting for an appointment with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) after that period.
It also marked a jump of 106% over the year, with the number experiencing long waits having increased from 959 at the end of September 2020.
By the end of September 2021, a total of 11,816 youngsters were waiting for an appointment with CAMHS.
The Scottish Government target is that 90% of patients should wait no more than 18 weeks for such help.
Almost eight out of 10 (78.6%) children and young people were seen within 18 weeks, the statistics showed.
However, as well as the 1978 who had been waiting from more than a year, 1780 youngsters have been on the list for an appointment for between 36 and 52 weeks, and 2858 have been waiting for between 19 weeks and 35 weeks.
Scottish Conservative mental health spokesperson Craig Hoy said that the Covid crisis had exacerbated mental health issues for young people, and called for urgent action to avoid the situation becoming worse.
“These figures are absolutely devastating. On the SNP’s watch, Scotland is in the grip of a mental health crisis among our young people,” said the MSP.
“Even prior to the pandemic, the SNP continually failed to meet crucial mental health waiting time targets. The Covid crisis has only exacerbated mental health issues for young people and urgent action is needed to avoid this situation getting even worse.
“It is shocking that almost 2000 vulnerable young people have been waiting over a year to begin treatment.
“SNP Ministers are simply not doing enough to ensure our health boards and local organisations have the resources needed to support those most in need.”
Hoy added: “Ahead of this week’s Budget, these figures must be an urgent wake-up call for Ministers. Pressure from the Scottish Conservatives meant the SNP finally agreed to our calls for ten per cent of the health budget to be directed to mental health services.
“Now it is time for the warm words to stop and instead we must see action taken by the SNP to ensure youngsters seeking mental health treatment do not continue to suffer these appallingly long waits.”
Scottish Labour mental health spokesperson Carol Mochan warned of the risk of a “lost generation” of young people facing mental health issues.
“These statistics plainly show that the SNP is failing to re-mobilise mental health and CAMHS services in Scotland,” she said.
“It seems that the SNP government’s waiting times commitments are not worth the paper they are written on.
“Thousands of young people, many of whom will be in severe distress, are languishing on waiting lists. That over half of these young people are waiting over 4 months for treatment is appalling and unacceptable.
“It is all too clear that the SNP’s failure to re-mobilise mental health services will be pushing those experiencing poor mental health further and further into demoralisation.
“Action needs to be taken now, or else we risk a lost generation of young people facing mental health issues.”
Minister for mental wellbeing Kevin Stewart said it is clear that “long waits for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are not acceptable”.
He also said it was “encouraging to see progress towards meeting the waiting times target with eight out of 10 children and young people seen within 18 weeks of a referral”.
He added: “We do recognise that performance is mixed and there is more to be done particularly in those areas where there have been increases in the number of children and young people waiting for over a year for treatment – this is why support is being directed to those boards with the longest waits to clear backlogs by March 2023.
“As part of this support we have provided additional funding of £40m to improve CAMHS this year with £4.25m directly focused on offering treatment to those already on the waiting list.”