More than 40,000 calls to mental health crisis line abandoned

Between July 2020 and June 2021, 40,242 of 129,200 calls were ended by those seeking help.

More than 40,000 calls to mental health crisis line abandoned iStock

More than 40,000 calls to NHS Scotland’s mental health crisis line have been abandoned in the last year, figures show.

Between July 2020 and June this year, 40,424 of the 129,200 calls made to the NHS 24 Mental Health Hub were ended by those seeking help.

This equates to almost a third of all calls made to the hotline, which is in its first year of operation.

Calls “abandoned” mean the caller ended the phone call while waiting to be answered after selecting a transfer option, NHS 24 said.

The figures were published after a Freedom of Information request (FOI) submitted by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Party leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, who revealed the data on World Mental Health Day, said: “The pandemic has imposed an enormous mental burden on people who may have already been struggling.

“Unfortunately these figures show that many of those who reached out for help didn’t get it.

“They join the many others who have already been let down by the dearth of mental health support in this country.”

The MSP added: “Mental health is still nowhere near as supported as physical health. This World Mental Health day, we must do better.”

Cole-Hamilton criticised the Scottish Government for “shamefully abandoning the training of new mental health first aiders” when the pandemic hit, causing the country to “fall far behind England”.

Scotland’s Mental Health Hub is run by specialist nurses who respond to people who are experiencing a range of mental health difficulties and distress.

It has been running 24/7 since July last year.

In March this year, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the number of unanswered calls to the hotline was “unacceptable”.

Since then until June, the FOI data shows more than 10,000 calls were abandoned.

Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care Kevin Stewart said: “We know the pandemic has had a substantial impact on the mental health of the population, and is likely to continue to do so.

“We will continue to deliver on the actions set out in our Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan, backed by £120m, and ensure that people can get the right help at the right time.

“As part of this, we will invest an additional £4m to increase the capacity of the NHS 24’s Mental Health Hub.

“In addition, as part of our Programme for Government, we will ensure that by 2026, every GP practice will have access to a mental health and wellbeing service, creating 1000 additional dedicated staff to help grow community mental health resilience and direct social prescribing.”

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