Considering the mental health challenges and the difficulties of accessing support experienced by the children and young people we work with; we welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Mental Health Act. We focused on its implications for children and young people, as it is vital to understand that their needs, experiences, and strengths are different to adults, and may require a different approach to ensure appropriate care.
We welcomed several commitments set out in the legislation. However, there is a challenging landscape ahead of us.
Despite this, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) make up less the 1% of the NHS budget. Many of those we support find themselves stuck in waiting lists as their needs and risks escalate – with no review of priority. It is known that “children and young people are not getting appropriate mental health care and treatment until they reach crisis point.” (Audit Scotland, 2018)
The Act must take account of this reality, and ensure:
“…I felt I always had to go to them and there were days when I could not face going out and I decided that it was not for me.” (Young person)
“It was important to me to have someone not connected to the assessment to talk to about it – to be heard.” (Young Person)
“There are so many services offering a bit of this and that but nothing for kids on the spectrum with anger issues. You are trying to grapple with things and then you have far too many people involved. It is very exhausting…” (Parent)
The Mental Health Act has the opportunity to develop measures forming the foundation for a better future for children and young people’s mental health in Scotland. Ultimately, children and young people should be protected by laws that are developed with and for them.