Mental health problems are on the rise here in North Ayrshire. The demand for mental health services is rapidly increasing but the resources needed to support those affected isn't.
It is well proven that mental illness is more prevalent within areas of social deprivation and that means it’s an issue that plagues some of our local communities.
As a Councillor I have saw it first-hand.
Community groups supporting young adults, who presented to them as suicidal, through their own budgets as they can’t access mental health services.
Ayrshire College Student Association trying to support more and more students with poor mental health.
Things need to change.
That’s why the first pledge I am making in this election is to tackle mental health.
I have already signed up to the Scottish Labour Campaign for Mental Health which has committed me to the following five pledges.
But my pledge to the people of Cunninghame South goes further than that.
I am committed to fighting for the kind of change that our local community needs and on mental health I believe this means delivering on a number of things.
Firstly, it is simply unacceptable that people with poor mental health are not able to access the treatment and support they require straight away.
If someone has a physical injury they will be able to access treatment through the NHS with few difficulties. So why is that someone who presents with a mental health illness can’t expect the same?
As the MSP for Cunninghame South I will demand the resources required to treat people who suffer from poor mental health at the point of need.
Secondly, many people with mental health problems simply don’t know how to access services and support.
Take the community group I referred to above. They are at the heart of their community and an organisation that holds the trust of local people. That young adults in that communities first port of call for support with their mental health problem was the community group rather than a GP or other medical professional shows that there is a major issue to be tackled in terms of the awareness, and indeed availability, of mental health services and support.
18 months after I got involved in this particular issue, and numerous emails and meetings later, we are no further forward.
But what the experience has taught me is that we need a community based approach to assisting those with mental health issues.
There are organisations in the third sector who are already doing so much to help people with poor mental health but, with the integration of health and social care, we need the NHS and Councils to be on board and formally support the work they are doing. There needs to a clear pathway from primary care to community based support for those with mental health problems.
That’s why, as the MSP for Cunninghame South, I will work with the local Health and Social Care Partnership to develop a community based mental health strategy to help those suffering from mental health problems.
Finally, poor mental health affects an individual’s ability to find and hold down employment.
With the highest unemployment rate of any group in Scotland (79% of people with severe and enduring mental health problems are not in work and over 50% of ESA claimants in Scotland have a mental health problem as their primary condition), people with mental health have been let down by Government at all levels.
I believe everyone in society should be given the opportunity to play a full part in society and to make a positive contribution. towards it. With new powers over Employability coming to the Scottish Parliament we have an opportunity to deliver change for those with mental health.
As Cunninghame South’s MSP I will work to ensure that those powers are used to offer tailored employability support to everyone with a mental health problem and will work with North Ayrshire Council to develop local support.
This is the sort change I believe we need to see, and it is the sort of change I am committed to fighting for.
Mental Health is a very big issue in our community, particularly amongst young people. Here's brief statements from two amazing women in our community who represent young people and have experience of trying to help people with mental health problems.
Angela Alexander - Student President at Ayrshire College Student Association
As Student President at Ayrshire College I am regularly visited by students whose learning is impacted by their poor mental health. People ask what the biggest concern for our students is, they expect the answer to be lack of funding however the problem is more complex and can be the result of students mental health affecting their resilience to deal with day to day challenges such as funding issues and course deadlines.
A concern for the Student Association is the lack of mental health support for students. Often we are left with nowhere to signpost these students too because the services simply aren’t provided in the community. Ayrshire College understands this and Student Services have limited access to counselling provision on site however this is nowhere near enough to meet demand.
The Student Association would like to see all staff working with students to be able to recognise early warning signs of mental health issues and should have the confidence to intervene. We are calling for Mental Health First Aid training to be a mandatory requirement for all members of staff working with students.
We would like to see a minimum standard of mental health service provision across all educational institutions and students should be able to access counselling support on campus. In addition to this we would welcome the introduction of a Mental Health Co-ordinator on campus in partnership with the NHS similar to the job of the college’s Drug and Alcohol Liaison officer.
The lack of mental health services dramatically impacts on all areas of students’ lives and this needs to change. Ideally a joint approach to mental health services on campus would see a major improvement for students. A more community based approach to mental health services is what needs to be developed in Ayrshire. I’m so glad Joe has this at the top of his agenda, he has the ability to make positive changes in Ayrshire.
Erin McAuley - Unite and STUC Youth Committee's
There is no doubt that poor mental health is soaring amongst our nation but the rising poor mental health amongst our young people is worrying.
We have more youth being referred to CAMHS by our schools and have seen a rise of youth presenting to A&E with feelings of suicide and depression, yet society still provokes the message that because we are young we cannot feel stressed or depressed or be seen to be suffering.
Young people's mental health and emotional stability is more important than their academic grade.
If young people are not in good places mentally and emotionally then how on earth are they expected to succeed in the daily pressures put on them by family, friends, workplaces and education? That why this is so vital in Cunninghame South.
We can no longer have our young people’s exam performance, their Higher and Further education destinations, their jobs and employability affected not because they are incapable but because their poor mental health is taking over.
Many young people face bullying every day of their lives. They face social anxiety which can prevent them from flourishing. They face the stress of trying to fit into, and find their place, in an increasingly competitive society. Far too many young people are afraid to speak out around their mental health, and we need a voice in parliament who will act not just talk.
Young people are our future, both in this constituency and across the country, and raising awareness of young people’s mental health needs to be a priority for a successful vibrant economic, social and political future for Cunninghame South.
Just because it cannot be physically seen does not mean it should be ignored and treated any less valid as physical health is.