Movement is the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week - but the grim reality is mental health services across Scotland have been moving backwards for quite some time.

Sadly, this is despite the best efforts of the great staff who work in them.

For years now we’ve been told about investment in mental health services with the same lines trudged out every time data is published on waiting times or Scotland’s drug death crisis.

But working on the frontline, we know this is just spin and bluster.

The 10 per cent of the NHS budget we were due to get is of course a paltry amount compared to what is spent on physical health. Much more is so desperately needed.

But to add insult to injury the amount of cash actually spent has been reducing by up to five per cent each year.

Our mental health system was woefully underfunded and understaffed in the first place; then came austerity, Covid and the cost of living crisis.

We were therefore unprepared to deal with a gigantic wave of demand.

Usually in times of great chaos and upheaval, health care systems and governments look towards senior doctors to help triage the battlefield.

We use our expertise to ensure that as many people can be helped as possible.

Much to our disappointment, this hasn’t happened. Instead, psychiatrists have had to  look on in frustration as the scant resources we do have are misspent in often well-intentioned but misguided ways.

In the worst cases, services have been plugging gaps with vastly expensive agency locum doctors, who in many cases are not suitably trained and qualified.

None of us would accept our loved one going for an operation if the doctor doing the cutting was not trained in surgery, yet this has been allowed to happen in mental health services.

But it’s not all hopeless. We can change direction.

Everyone who cares about the mental health of Scotland should put pen to paper and write to their MSP now.

Join the cause and demand we stop the cuts and that at least 10 per cent of the NHS budget be spent on these vital services.

Please ask that national pathways are developed for the most serious mental illnesses, particularly schizophrenia and dementia.

Call for a national workforce strategy so that places with the highest rates of poverty and drug-related deaths always have consultant psychiatrists working in them.

Request every consultant psychiatrist position is staffed by a doctor who is suitably qualified and trained to do such a senior role.

Above all note that every pound be spent wisely on mental health services and demand consultant psychiatrists are key decision makers whenever these services are being set up.

You can help move things forward. Please write to our politicians today. The most vulnerable people in society are depending on us.

Together we can move our country to a healthier place by the time the next awareness week comes around.

Dr Jim Crabb is a consultant psychiatrist and policy lead at the Royal College of Psychiatrists Scotland

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