Dundee mental health activists have warned people could die while waiting for treatment under the Scottish Government’s waiting time targets.
Scottish health boards are challenged to work within an 18 week window between patients being referred for treatment and treatment being received.
NHS Tayside has consistently met the 18 week target for children and adolescents in recent times, but for activists, four and a half months is simply too long to ask sufferers to wait.
Campaigners fear people will continue to suffer, or in some cases, die prematurely while waiting for treatment.
Charity worker Kieran Watson, from youth charity Eighteen and Under, warned: “The waiting times are unacceptable.
“It’s really tragic that we have such a long waiting time.
“Often these are people who are already in crisis by the time they are able to get a referral.
“They’re then being asked to hold on for 18 weeks.
“How many more people have to suffer, how many more people have to lose their lives?
“This is a developed country and we really should be better at this than we are.”
Mental health survivor and author Tina McGuff, who has written of her experience of living with anorexia, said: “Time is the enemy of the illness and early intervention is key.
“No one should have to wait any length of time for something as complex as clinical depression, anxiety, OCD, suicidal thoughts, intrusive thoughts, psychosis or anorexia.
“There needs to be a whole shift in perceptions around mental health.
“Your brain is an organ like all others – however if it goes wrong it can be catastrophic at worst and terrifying at best.”
Tina continued: “No one should ever have to wait months and months as you can deteriorate very quickly. Early intervention is key to recovery and help.
“Each day I get emails from desperately worried families looking for help and guidance.
“I wish I could wave a wand and take it all away for them. ”
Scottish Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said: “Scotland was the first country in the UK to have a mental health waiting times target, a sign of how importantly we view this issue.
“We have put in place a comprehensive package of support to improve access to mental health services, for children and adults, providing funding for additional staff and workforce development.
“There has been significant progress, however I’m clear that we must continue to reduce waiting times and I will not be satisfied until our target is met consistently.
“In the coming weeks I will publish our new strategy for mental health which will focus on improving access to services and increasing support for early intervention and prevention.”