ALMOST 10,000 Scots have called for a radical transformation of mental health services.

Ministers are being urged to back changes such as introducing 'on-demand' counselling services in GP surgeries, amid concerns about lengthy waits for treatment after referrals.

The call from supporters of social justice campaign group 38degrees came as the parent of a teenager suffering with long term depression spoke about the "horrendous" lack of support for her son during the last five years.

Joanne Torres, a single parent in the Borders, told the Sunday Herald, that her son had been denied regular counselling, despite talking about harming himself over his desperation at living with constant anxiety and depression.

Torres, a supporter of the campaign, said that said she had to pay as much as £90 for an hour session of counselling, but that her 16-year-old son had never been seen by a professional more than twice for his condition.

The harrowing account came as thousands of service users said there were gaping gaps in mental health support, in a survey timed to coincide with a Scottish Government consultation 'Mental Health in Scotland – a 10 year vision' that closes on 16 September.

Members of the 38degrees group launched the survey following concerns that the Scottish Government's plan was vague and lacked firm commitments about increasing the level of support for people with mental health problems.

Stewart Kirkpatrick, head of 38 Degrees in Scotland, said a critical concern centred on patients experiencing lengthy waits for services such as counselling after being referred for help by their GP.

He said that the bulk of the responses from people in the survey called for counselling to be available in GP surgeries, as part of a package of improved support including better funded mental health services for youths.

Kirkpatrick said: "We've had around 9,000 people expressing a deep level of concern that the Scottish Government needs to radically improve mental health services in Scotland.

"It's clear from the responses we've received that people want specific improvements.

"A lot of it focuses on a desire that rather than people having to go to their GP and have long waits after getting a referral to a service like counselling that there should be quick and easy access."

Torres said that her son had not been given any real help for his mental health problems, despite her making repeated requests to GPs, health authorities and local councils.

She said: "Our experiences have been horrendous and my son has never had any proper help. I ended up having to pay for a couple of sessions of counselling, but even this was sporadic and he was never seen consistently.

"He still needs to see someone as his illness is still there. He never saw anyone more than twice and there was a big gap between the two sessions."

Torres, who works as a paralegal in the Borders, spoke about how her son had talked about self harm, as she called on the Scottish Government to dramatically improve support for mental health patients.

She added: "He's not a problem child and he doesn't have behavioural problems, but he's just been allowed to slip below the radar. He's got real anxiety and has developed depression. There have been times when he threatened to harm himself.

"I've tried to get regular counselling for him and at one stage I had to pay £90 a time for an hour, which was too expensive."

However, Scotland's Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt, in response to the campaign, said: “I welcome this contribution by 38 Degrees as part of our consultation on our new mental health strategy, which will be published later this year.

"I want this new strategy to be an ambitious vision for mental health and how we will transform these services over the next decade. One of the themes we will focus on is how to improve responses in primary care settings.”