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Jump in number of children and adults accessing psychiatric support in Highlands

By Philip Murray

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Mental health advocates believe the rise is due to greater support and efforts to destigmatise the wish to seek support.
Mental health advocates believe the rise is due to greater support and efforts to destigmatise the wish to seek support.

The number of children and adults receiving psychiatric help from NHS Highland has jumped in the past five years, new figures have revealed.

Data released under a Freedom of Information request has shown that the number of children seeing a psychiatrist more than doubled from 220 in 2019 to 465 in 2023.

The number of adults, meanwhile, increased from 2462 in 2019 to 3920 by the back end of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, before falling back slightly to 3516 in 2023.

The overall increases in people seeking psychiatric help is being seen as an “encouraging” sign by mental health advocates - who believe it means fewer people are suffering mental ill health in silence and are now getting the support they need.

Mental health charity Mikeysline believes the rise may also be in part thanks to efforts to destigmatise discussion around mental health in recent years.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “It is encouraging that people are reaching out and accessing clinical support via a range of means to suit their situation and geographical location.

“The additional challenges of the past few years during and after the Covid-19 pandemic have been hard to bear for many people, and so many people are likely to be in need of the relevant services.

“Stigma can be a factor in people not feeling they can ask for the help they need, and we would encourage anyone to access the clinical NHS help they need via the relevant route.”

NHS Highland, meanwhile, said the increase stemmed from a rise in demand not just locally but across the UK, and that it had also been making its psychiatric support more easily available to people in remote or rural areas through online consultation.

It added that despite the “significant challenge” of a shortage of psychiatrists nationwide, it had been working to increase access to its services - and stressed that wider care and support is also available.

“As has been seen across the rest of the country we have seen a rise in those accessing mental health support,” said a spokesperson for the health board.

“In response to the rise in demand we have continued to evolve our services and to work closely with partners to ensure that we can provide the care and support that people require.

Mental health advocates believe the rise is due to greater support and efforts to destigmatise the wish to seek support.
Mental health advocates believe the rise is due to greater support and efforts to destigmatise the wish to seek support.

“Across our mental health teams, we work through integrated multi-disciplinary teams and care is provided by a range of professionals including psychiatry, psychology, therapists, nursing, and allied health professional roles, as well as our support workers, to ensure that appropriate and timely care can be given.

“We have also significantly increased the use of virtual appointments therefore reducing travel times for patients and staff.

“There is a national shortage of psychiatrists and recruiting consultant psychiatrists in remote and rural areas in Highland remains a significant challenge. However, they are only part of the system of care and support available.”

Mikeysline has moved to remind people that help is available, and encouraged them to seek the support they need rather than suffer in silence.

“We would also take the opportunity to highlight the peer support services available via Mikeysline for anyone who would find these of help at this time,” said the spokesperson, “Our text line can be accessed remotely every evening at www.mikeysline.co.uk/contact.

“Support is also available via our telephone and online appointments as well as face to face services in Inverness, Nairn, Tain, Balintore, Portmahomack, Dingwall, Isle of Skye, Kyle of Lochalsh, and Thurso, and appointments can be booked via our website www.mikeysline.co.uk/appointment-bookings.

“Mikeysline also visits a range of locations in Highland, Islands and Moray with our mobile Mikeysline ‘Hive on the Road’ service.

“There are a range of services available and a number of ways to access these depending on what suits an individual. We would encourage someone in need of help to reach out and ask for the support and hope that they need to enable them in staying safe and well, and ultimately to get the best possible outcome for their recovery.”

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