Full-time opening is on way for city Priory

A MENTAL health clinic famous for rehabilitating celebrities has announced a huge expansion of its Edinburgh operation to deal with patients whose problems are related to the recession.

The Priory opened two years ago in the city centre, running for only half a day a week, but bosses there said demand from people requiring psychological help dealing with job loss and reduced income has resulted in it operating full-time.

It is a pattern that has been mirrored within NHS mental health units, while charities said more had to be done to help people struggling in the economic climate.

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It has been warned that the crisis will only worsen as the public sector follows the private in trying to cut down on jobs.

Dr Alex Yellowlees, who heads the outpatients facility on St Andrew Square, said: "We are far more aware about mental health than we were even ten years ago, and more willing to get something done about it.

"We have seen a large increase because of people suffering stress, anxiety and depression because of unemployment and financial pressure.

"We began running just a few hours a week and now we have switched to five days.

"When I started out here in 2008 I probably saw one or two people a week who had been referred, now that is up to 20."

He added that although the recession was hardly a new thing, long-suffering Lothians residents may only now be coming to terms with the impact that it is having on their mental wellbeing.

He said: "It can take a while for these things to come round.

"Your health deteriorates until the point friends or family see you have become so ill that you really ought to see someone."

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The nature of the increased admissions vary from alcohol dependency and eating disorders to flat out clinical depression, the Priory said.

A consultant psychiatrist, three therapists and a dietician have all been brought in to cope with the swelling patient numbers.

Linda Irvine, strategic programme manager for mental health and wellbeing for NHS Lothian, said a similar pattern had emerged within NHS hospitals. She added: "We know factors such as losing your job and financial or relationship difficulties can lead people to experience stress and depression.

"Last year we introduced new services to offer people an alternative to medication, to help with mild to moderate stress and depression.

"These services include guided self-help, a GP exercise referral scheme and stress control classes.

"Since they were introduced last year we have seen a high number of referrals."

Billy Watson, chief executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), added: "SAMH calls for early support for people who lose their jobs, and for local authorities and NHS Boards to prioritise mental health services when setting budgets, to ensure people can get help before problems reach crisis level."