Half of Scots using mental health services feel worse now than at start of pandemic, charity says

Half of people in Scotland using mental health services feel worse now than at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, research from mental health charity SAMH has shown.

Claire, from Kircaldy.
Claire, from Kircaldy.

The research also found that a quarter of participants felt opportunities to discuss care and treatment options have got worse since earlier in the pandemic.

The data is taken from a small survey of 231 people which ran online between September 23 and October 12.

Respondents lived in Scotland, were over the age of 16 and had been referred to, or received treatment from a professional , organisation or service for their mental health at any time since January 2019.

Billy Watson, SAMH CEO. Picture: Lenny Warren

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The survey also found that people do not feel well informed on the ways in which their support is changing, with almost half (46 per cent) saying they had not received adequate information on how the pandemic affects their care and treatment.

One respondent, Claire, 39, who lives in Kirkcaldy, experiences depression.

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She said: “Throughout lockdown I had been having a difficult time and I wanted to speak with my GP. I felt that I was having to battle through reception to even get to a doctor. Then you have to wait for a phone call appointment and you don’t know when you’ll get a call or who you’ll hear from.

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“My GP knows me and what works for me, which is why I wanted to see them specifically. Because of the triaging system they are using, I had no access to my own GP, but I also felt it wasn’t urgent enough to contact my consultant.”

A quarter of respondents said they had been put off getting treatment or care for their mental health by the idea of phone consultations.

One respondent told SAMH: “I feel frustrated that I cannot see my Community Psychiatric Nurse face to face as I feel anxious speaking on the phone. Sometimes the connection is really poor so our conversation can be stilted. I much prefer a face to face discussion, as at home, I have no privacy and cannot freely discuss exactly what is going in my head.”

Satisfaction rates for consultations via video call were higher than those for appointments taking place on the phone.

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Two-fifths (42 per cent) of those who had taken part in a video or telephone consultation regarding their mental health said they had not spoken to the same person each time.

Privacy concerns were also raised about both phone and video consultations.

Some 36 per cent of those who had discussed their care through a video call and 27 per cent of those who had taken part in phone consultations said a lack of privacy had been a problem for them.

Billy Watson, Chief Executive at SAMH, said: “The impact of the pandemic on people with mental health problems cannot be overestimated.

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"Our latest research paints a picture of worsening mental health, a lack of information about care and treatment and real privacy issues in being able to discuss care and treatment.

"We must make sure people can get access to support that works for them, and that people are given clear information about how their care will be delivered as circumstances continue to change”.

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