A number of leading charities have added their names to a growing list calling for a dedicated emergency mental health unit in Dundee.
MSP Jenny Marra has called for the new service to be established following a revelation from Tayside’s most senior police officer that mental health is the force’s “greatest challenge”.
The Scottish Government has faced renewed pressure from campaigners to implement the proposal following a string of shocking and violent incidents in Dundee where mental health was identified as a potential factor.
The incidents have raised serious questions over the way mental health is managed across the region and the quality of services available for people reaching crisis point.
Robin Murphy, from the mental health and wellbeing charity Penumbra, said it causes further distress and anxiety when those in crisis are unable to access support quickly.
He added: “In some parts of the country crisis provision is good. In other areas though, people are unsure how to access dedicated services, if they exist at all.
“There is clearly a need for better crisis support and we are keen to be part of the conversation about the possible options for Dundee.”
Ged Flynn, chief executive of the charity Papyrus, which specialises in prevention of young suicide, said people attending regular A&E at the time of a mental health crisis often find the environment is “not conductive to their needs”.
“In some cases they feel worse or are misunderstood in an emergency department which is busy, noisy and is often hugely pressurised for staff,” he said.
“There is a definite need for an alternative safe space for young people and others who experience suicide crisis to attend somewhere where they and their caregivers and parents can find professional and timely support in a suicide safe environment.”
Mental Health Foundation Scotland’s Toni Giugliano warned Dundee is facing an “imminent mental health storm” unless it finds a way to cope with the increasing number of people reaching crisis point.
Speaking after raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Marra said the present system of mental health crisis care is “simply not enough”.
“I hear stories time and time again of police seeking care for people and being turned away,” she said.
“It’s time that Dundee had a mental health A&E so that those in the most desperate need of care can present themselves, be assessed and given help, care and assistance.
Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said Dundee had “a number of mental health facilities that can respond to psychiatric emergencies and provide admission or community-based support as required.”
She added: “As part of our mental health strategy, and to better support mental health crisis across Scotland, we are investing £35 million over five years to provide 800 additional mental health workers in key settings, including police custody suites and A&Es.
“We are also testing an innovative ‘distress brief intervention’ service in four areas across Scotland, to better manage and support people presenting in distress to a wide range of services. These include A&Es, ambulance crews, the police and primary care.”