Scottish schools ‘lacking’ mental health provision

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Cosla said there was a shortage of mental health workers following budget cuts

A lack of mental health provision for young people in Scotland is leaving them in distress and at serious risk, according to key children’s charities.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, said urgent action was needed to improve support.

Scotland is the only UK country with no national strategy for school-based counselling services.

The Scottish government said some health boards had a “long way to go” on mental health provision.

Research suggests that half of mental health problems start before the age of 15.

The Scottish Youth Parliament, Penumbra, Place2Be and Children in Scotland are also supporting the call for support to be improved in all schools and in the community.

  • Mental health in Scotland – key facts

Local government body Cosla said budget cuts had led to a shortage of mental health workers and educational psychologists.

Psychologist shortage

A spokesman said: “Scotland’s councils take the health and well-being of the children in our schools very seriously indeed.

“Councils employ educational psychologists and these officers are shared across the local authority area – focusing primarily on the children who need them, wherever they are based.

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“We have a shortage of educational psychologists in Scotland at the present time and we are working jointly with the Scottish government to consider solutions to the issue.

“The mental health of our young people is a priority for Cosla and we know that it takes a range of professional officers to support our young people.”

A fifth of children referred to NHS Scotland’s mental health counselling service, Camhs, are not seen within an 18-week target.

‘Not acceptable’

NHS figures show that between January 2015 and September 2016, a total of 30,639 children were seen by Camhs, with 6,745 patients seen after waiting more than 18 weeks.

During the same period, 708 had to wait more than 53 weeks to be seen.

Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said it was up to every local authority to decide how to provide mental health services in each school, but admitted it was a “postcode lottery”.

She told BBC Scotland: “I have said that where there are long waiting times in health boards for Cahms and psychological therapies, it’s not acceptable.

“I have used part of the £150m to make sure that those health boards that are far away from meeting targets are given help to, where necessary, redesign their whole service and where they need more people, more psychologists more nurses that those are provided.”

She added: “We are beginning to see some improvement in some of the boards that we’re already working with, but in some boards there is a long way to go.”

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