More than half of Scots are concerned about the mental health impact of the cost of living crisis, new figures have shown.
A poll carried out for the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland found 52% of Scots are concerned about the impact rising prices are having on their mental health.
More than four out of five Scots (82%) think demand for services will increase in the future, it also revealed.
The research, by pollsters YouGov, showed the issues people are most concerned about, with 85% citing rising energy prices, while 79% are worried about increasing food costs and 31% are worried about increasing debt.
Meanwhile, more than a quarter of people (27%) said they had experienced a new episode of poor mental health in the past year.
Psychiatrists are urging Scotland’s next first minister to increase spending on and staffing levels for mental health services after the “deeply worrying” research.
The college called on the three candidates running to be Scotland’s next first minister – health secretary Humza Yousaf, finance secretary Kate Forbes and former community safety minister Ash Regan – to make mental health a priority.
It wants a reverse to the freeze on the mental health budget in 2023-24, and increase in the mental health workforce.
Speaking about the survey Dr Jane Morris, vice-chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said: “These are deeply worrying statistics and encapsulate the feelings of Scottish people about how the current cost of living crisis is affecting everyone’s mental health.
“From relationship breakdowns to worries about crippling debt and wondering how you’ll pay for the next energy bill or feed your children – these situations are tough and can have an enormous effect on anybody’s mental health.
“There is already plenty of evidence that financial stress is associated with worse physical and mental health. The opposite is also true, poor health is likely to lead to impaired financial management.”
She added: “We cannot provide medical solutions to society’s economic problems, but we do need to support people with mental disorders to cope with the extra challenges.
“This is why it’s very important that whoever becomes the new first minister, continues to prioritise mental health and look at reversing the freeze on mental health budgets for 2023-24.”
Gabby Quinn, 36, from Dennistoun in Glasgow, suffers from bipolar and psychosis, and believes the cost-of-living crisis has worsened both conditions.
She said: “The cost of living payments did help but the next one isn’t until spring and with my mental health conditions, I need to be able to plan ahead. I need structure. So, it’s having an enormous negative affect on my mental health.”
Ms Quinn runs a mental health support group in Glasgow and said people come there for help “because they can’t get an appointment on the NHS – but we’re not medical experts.”
Ms Quinn said: “I think the UK and Scottish Governments need to remember that a lot of people cannot afford to buy themselves lunch and there is a lot of people have never faced mental health challenges before, but now there are a lot of people needing support.”
Denise McLaren, 37, from Stirling, suffers from personality disorder and anxiety disorder, but has turned her life around by volunteering at a local food bank.
There she said she had “seen first-hand how the cost of living crisis has affected people”.
Ms McLaren said: “It’s got busier and we’re now serving up to 80 families a week. To say I’m not anxious about the cost-of-living situation would be a lie – but then I think everyone is really worried about it.
“My mental health is fortunately good at the moment, but I’ve seen what mental ill health can do to someone and it makes me want help others.”
She added: “It’s a terrible situation and it’s obviously having an enormous effect on our NHS. We need a plan in place to help people’s mental health through this crisis.”