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Mental health survey raises isles concerns

| Written by Chris Cope

LONG waiting times, lack of investment and not enough support for young people are some of the key concerns which have been raised by Shetlanders in a nationwide survey on mental health in rural Scotland.

A total of 22 people from the isles responded to a survey carried out last year by charity Support in Mind Scotland and Scotland's Rural College.

The feedback will be used by the new The National Rural Mental Health Forum, which includes range of organisations such as NFU Scotland, NHS Health Scotland, the Scottish Government and Samaritans.

Waiting times was a key issue for respondents from Shetland, with some calling for more outreach support and equal facilities with less remote areas.

People also felt there should be more support given to communities in tackling mental health issues, while there should be more awareness raising and increased support offered to young people.

There were calls for more investment in resources, as well as local groups and third sector organisations, while respondents also said people should have a proper follow-up when they are discharged from treatment in Aberdeen.

NHS Shetland recently advertised two new mental health posts as it continues to bolster its service following criticism for leaving patients waiting too long for treatment.

The health board's Choose Life coordinator Karen Smith meanwhile said in March there had been no suicides in the isles in 18 months.

Half of the study's respondents from Shetland said they have suffered from depression, while six said they have had a generalised anxiety disorder.

Four said they have suffered from a social anxiety disorder, three said they have had suicidal thoughts and two reported self-harming behaviour.

The number of female respondents across Scotland was nearly four times than compared to males.

Anouska Civico of local mental health charity Mind Your Head said the concerns over waiting times and service provision were regularly echoed locally.

She added that the charity, which is based at Lerwick's Market House, is continuing to press ahead with plans to run its own support service.

"Mind Your Head have highlighted a gap in low level support services within Shetland and are hoping to be able to launch a support service very soon, funding dependant," Civico said.

"We are keen to offer support at the very early stages of someone noticing a change in their behaviour and mood and are trying to 'normalise' these thoughts and feelings as everyone has mental health the same as we all have physical health, just often we overlook our own mental health much more than we do our physical health."

Civico also praised the role of third sector organisations and charities when it comes to giving advice and support for people worried about their mental health.

"The third sector is more accessible and can respond quicker to the needs of the local community due to funding opportunities and there isn't the stigma that is still associated with the council and NHS mental health services," she said.

"For example if visiting a charity at Market House people have no idea what service you are accessing therefore people can obtain a comfortable level of anonymity."

Jim Hume, convenor/manager of the Forum for Support in Mind Scotland, said the survey results form "evidence" which can be used to battle mental health issues in rural Scotland.

"Mental ill health can be more difficult to tackle in remoter parts of Scotland, due to isolation, transport issues and stigma," he said.

"The National Rural Mental Health Forum is in a unique position to help rural communities tackle mental ill health through the outreach of the rural organisation members of the forum, the expertise of mental health organisation members and this ground breaking research."

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick, who sits on the forum, added that the "pressures of modern day farming and rural living" can have an impact on mental wellbeing.

"The survey results must act as a platform to tackle the stigma that still exists around mental health in a traditional industry like farming," he said.

 

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