YESTERDAY (September 10) was World Suicide Prevention Day.

BBC Scotland's radio documentary this week (September 9 & 10) on the suicide of six members of a shinty team in the Highlands revealed how poorly mental health is dealt with. The moving documentaries included input from families of the six young men who took their own lives. They emphasised time and again that these young men could not talk about their mental health and that the best help they got was from organisations and friends, who were able to listen to them and enabled them to talk without embarrassment about what they were feeling.

I have been a youth worker for more than 50 years and supported hundreds of young people to deal with mental health issues. I suffered from serious depression from my teenage years unit my late fifties, when psychiatrists offered a range of pills that did absolutely nothing for my depression. In my late sixties I managed to consult with psychologists and I overcame my decades of depression through being helped to understand what was behind the thinking that drove me to depression and suicidal thoughts. I also discovered the power of mindfulness meditation to calm the mind and help us to slowly reprogramme our minds to support positive mental health.

Mental health services are badly underfunded and dominated by psychiatrists, many of whom continue to believe that chemical imbalances cause most mental health problems. There is, and never has been, a medical test that can detect a chemical imbalance in our brains. So how can we be prescribed the appropriate dose of chemicals to resolve this? The answer is we cannot. Psychiatrists are in short supply and have little time to see or talk to patients, so they resort to the prescription pad and too often trap patients in years of medication that does not work. Pills can never be a substitute for helping people to talk through what is behind their distress. It is now well known that ACE (adverse childhood experience) is a major cause of mental ill health and addictions. Clinical psychologists are far more skilled at offering talking therapies than psychiatrists. Psychologists are trained to understand how we think and behave. They help people to explore what they are thinking and help them to find ways to think differently. They never prescribe medication.

The Covid pandemic is causing serious mental distress to hundreds of thousands of us. Plans are in hand to place counsellors in every school but there are not enough trained counsellors available. The thousands of people not in schools will not have access to that network. Government funding should as a priority be directed at organisations that understand and are able to offer a listening ear to those struggling with their mental health.

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow G12.