More than £300 million is to be invested in improving mental health care over the next five years.
The cash will go towards implementing the 40 measures outlined in the Scottish Government’s ten-year mental health strategy unveiled yesterday.
However, it has been branded a “missed opportunity” by opposition MSPs at Holyrood while mental health campaigners at SAMH claimed it “lacks the ambition and investment that Scotland deserves”.
Maureen Watt, Scotland’s first dedicated mental health minister, said the new blueprint was “not the end of a process”, stressing it is “just the beginning”.
She told MSPs mental health services had changed “dramatically” over the last decade but there was an “ambition to go further”. Included in the strategy is work to improve the physical health of people with mental health problems, as those with long-term problems can die 15 to 20 years prematurely.
Ms Watt said: “This is a major health inequality. I cannot accept it.”
To tackle this, she said she was “committed to ensuring that services such as screening and smoking cessation are supported to help improve participation rates for those with mental health problems”.
New powers over employment programmes being devolved will see the Scottish Government support people to find and stay in work, as not having a job can be “the biggest inequality that people with mental health problems can face”.
A new ten-year strategy for child and adolescent health and wellbeing will be developed, covering both physical and mental health. Ms Watt pledged the government would ensure every child “has access to emotional and mental wellbeing support in school”.
Billy Watson, chief executive of SAMH, welcomed the new strategy, describing it as “long overdue”. He said the charity was pleased some of its recommendations had been accepted, but added: “We are disappointed it lacks the ambition and investment Scotland deserves, for children and young people.”
Miles Briggs MSP, Scottish Conservative spokesman on mental health, said: “There are some positive proposals in the Mental Health Strategy which I welcome.
“However, like many of the organisations involved in mental health services on the ground, I do not believe the strategy will make the transformative change to mental health services we all want.”