Mental health patients ‘left high and dry’ during pandemic

SAMH polled 725 people who were referred for or had received treatment since January 2019.

Mental health patients ‘left high and dry’ during pandemic Getty Images

People with mental health problems have been “left high and dry” during the coronavirus pandemic, a charity has found.

The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) polled 725 people who were referred for or had received treatment since January 2019.

It found almost half of people (43%) said they have not received treatment or care during the coronavirus pandemic while 45% felt the quality of their treatment got worse and less frequent.

More than half (58%) said opportunities to discuss their care had worsened since lockdown began.

The proportion of people coping very or quite badly with their mental problems doubled from almost a quarter (23%) in the months before the pandemic to almost half (45%) by August.

The survey also recorded a small rise in suicidal thoughts.

One respondent to the survey, Michael, told SAMH: “I’ve struggled with my mental health for ten years but the past year has been particularly bad.

“I was referred for psychiatric treatment in early March and was told they would see me again soon.

“The ironic thing is shortly after that appointment I was watching the Scottish Government’s lockdown announcement and it said there would be funding for mental health so I felt reassured support would continue.

“A few days later a letter arrived to say I wouldn’t be seeing my psychiatrist anytime soon. It’s September now and I haven’t heard anything since.

“I feel like I’ve been left high and dry.”

Billy Watson, SAMH chief executive, said the pandemic has caused serious problems for people who need mental health services.

“Nationwide, fewer people are being referred for or receiving psychological therapies and child and adolescent mental health services and we’re instead seeing a shift away from people seeking professional help and instead turning to friends and family for support,” he said.

“While there have been steps to increase the capacity of mental health services, we now require an ambitious and well-resourced plan to redesign a system that was already under stress before the pandemic.

“Failure to do so will put lives at risk.”

The survey ran online between July 30 and August 25 and was completed by 725 people over the age of 16.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Mental health and wellbeing is a top priority for the Scottish Government and we want to ensure services are available for all those in distress whenever they need them.

“We have been working closely with all health boards to maintain the integrity and quality of mental health services across Scotland throughout the pandemic, but with Covid-19 impacting on services’ ability to see people face-to-face, emergency and urgent cases have been prioritised.

“We know this has had a regrettable knock-on in terms of timescales for the delivery of care and treatment.”

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