Mental health campaigners have urged an immediate review into the failure of young people in Scotland to be offered specialist treatment for mental health issues.
This is extremely concerning, particularly as young people are a very high risk group for suicide.
Yet despite this fact, over 7,000 children and adolescents were rejected for mental health referrals during the last 12 months.
The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) described the figure as “astonishing”.
Responding to criticism, the Scottish government indicated that it will commission a review into rejected referrals.
But SAMH suggest that action is not being taken quickly enough, with many young people waiting to receive help and support.
The charity’s Jo Anderson stated that 17,500 people had been turned away from receiving Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) support over the past three years.
“That’s an astonishing figure, and we don’t know what happens to them after they’ve been turned away. We don’t know whether they received any other support. In the last few weeks of the campaign we’ve been running, we’ve been inundated with calls from parents who’re in that situation and their child has been rejected from receiving a CAMHS service. They haven’t been signposted anywhere else – that’s a very worrying picture.”
Many patients complain that rejected referrals result in problems and feelings being exacerbated, which obviously has extremely serious consequences.
The official mental health strategy of the Scottish government commits the authorities to conducting regular reviews into school counselling and rejected child and adolescent mental health service referrals.
And its mental health minister, Maureen Watt, indicated that these reviews will happen in due course, enabling vital improvements to be made to the existing system.
While the aforementioned Anderson agreed that this is encouraging news, she also added that the process must be put in place rapidly.
“We really urge that to be quick and thorough because there are young people waiting now to get help and support. It might be that the CAMHS service isn’t appropriate for them, but we simply don’t know what the problem is.”
Yet statistics indicate that waiting time targets for mental health treatment have been missed repeatedly.
The Scottish government had put in place a target of 90% of patients to be seen within 18 weeks of referral for mental health issues.
But this target has never been met at a national level, with 83.6% of children and 73% adults seen within the required timescale in the most recent figures.