NEARLY half of people with mental health problems in Scotland felt they did not get care or treatment because of the pandemic.

The study by mental health charity, SAMH, has been published exactly six months on from the date lockdown began on March 23. 

It found that 43 per cent of people with mental health problems in Scotland felt they did not get care or treatment as a result of the Covid crisis, which saw the NHS placed on an "emergency footing".

The findings are based responses to an online survey which ran from July 30 to August 25, and was completed by 725 people living in Scotland.

The respondents were aged over 16 and had been referred to, or received treatment from a mental health professional, organisation or service at any time since January 2019.

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The survey found that 45% of peopel felt the quality of their treatment had deteriorated and become less frequent, with 58% agreeing that opportunities to discuss their care or treatment had worsened since lockdown began in March.

Those experiencing thoughts of suicide rose to 59%, up by 3% compared to pre-lockdown figures and, worryingly, 10% of respondents said they had not sought treatment - even though they felt they needed it.

Billy Watson, chief executive at SAMH, said: “It is now clear that the pandemic has caused serious problems for people who need mental health services.

"Nationwide, fewer people are being referred for or receiving psychological therapies and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), and we’re instead seeing a shift away from people seeking professional help and instead turning to friends and family for support.

“While there have been steps to increase the capacity of mental health services, we now require an ambitious and well-resourced plan to redesign a system that was already under stress before the pandemic. Failure to do so will put lives at risk.”

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Communication with service users during the pandemic also suffered, with almost half (42%) receiving no information on how their treatment would be affected by the pandemic, and out of those who had received information, almost two thirds (63%) said they were worried or upset about how the changes would affect them.

Michael, who uses mental health services, said: “I’ve struggled with my mental health for 10 years but the past year has been particularly bad.

"I was referred for psychiatric treatment in early March and was told they would see me again soon.

“The ironic thing is shortly after that appointment I was watching the Scottish Government’s lockdown announcement and it said there would be funding for mental health, so I felt reassured support would continue.

"A few days later a letter arrived to say I wouldn’t be seeing my psychiatrist anytime soon.

"It’s September now and I haven’t heard anything since. I feel like I’ve been left high and dry.”

Suleman, a SAMH support worker based in North Lanarkshire said: “Generally the pandemic had a negative impact, people were isolated from loved ones, had a more distant relationship with their mental health team and the inability to take part in their hobbies and usual team caused difficulty.

"There were cases in which the mental health team was bit less responsive and the fact they couldn’t meet face to face didn’t allow the person to interact in the same way.”