New findings reveal the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the mental health of people living in Scotland, with particularly stark findings for the provision of support services.
Released by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), the report shows that while many experienced a deterioration in their mental health, many people also stopped receiving support altogether.
The findings come from three surveys of over 1000 people with mental health issues from across Scotland between August and December of last year.
In the final survey, carried out in November, more than 1 in 2 respondents (56%) said that their mental health had worsened compared with the start of the pandemic.
This statistic was reflected in how well people were coping: 37% said they were coping 'quite badly' or 'very badly' in November compared with 23% in August, while those coping 'quite well' or 'very well' dropped from 45% to just under 1 in 5 within the same timeframe.
At the same time, 1 in 10 respondents (13%) were unsuccessful in their bid to talk to their GP about their mental health, while 27% of those already receiving specialist care for their condition saw their care stop entirely.
For those that did receive care, many were still experiencing difficulties.
Just over three quarters of respondents (76%) said that ‘face-to-face is better than simply talking on the phone', with 24% saying that a phone call consultation was unsatisfactory.
“Sessions did not feel as personal and being vulnerable was a lot more difficult," said one respondent. “It’s hard for them to get the right picture over the phone," said another.
“As we come to the one year anniversary of the first lockdown, it’s clear that more must be done to ensure people struggling with mental health problems are not forgotten," said Billy Watson, SAMH Chief Executive. "Today’s findings show that the coronavirus pandemic has hit people with mental health problems hard, and the experiences they have shared with us as part of this research must be recognised.
“But coronavirus was not the sole cause of the mental health crisis in Scotland. Services were already struggling prior to the pandemic. We must now see face to face support return as soon as it’s safe to do so. And as we move out of restrictions, better support and care must be made an absolute priority.”
Scottish mental health services recently came under fire for senior staff vacancies across NHS Scotland.
Released as part of a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, data showed that 1 in 8 consultant psychiatrist positions remained unfilled, totalling 82 total vacant posts.
As a result, none of the 14 NHS Scotland health boards were fully staffed.
"These figures show gaping holes in mental health staffing," said Liberal Democrat Scottish MP, Alex Cole-Hamilton. "Not only is this bad for patients but it piles pressure on other services like accident and emergency.
"The Scottish Government must get serious about staffing. They must invest in a proper national health service recovery plan that includes proposals that ensure our national mental health is a priority and puts the staff and resources in place to make that happen."
To read the full report from the SAMH, click here.
Written by Marco Ricci
Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health