Mental health bosses in Perthshire have admitted they must address a lack of mental health services in rural areas.
Perth and Kinross Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) acknowledged in its own report that patients can struggle to get the help they need.
Chris Lamont, chairman of the mental health and wellbeing programme for HSCP, admitted that “access to services in rural areas has been a problem for a significant period of time”.
Mr Lamont made the admission at a recent Integrated Joint Board meeting after being asked about the provision by Highland Perthshire councillor Xander McDade.
A Blairgowrie resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was “off-putting” travelling to Perth to visit mental health groups and services.
They said: “I always wish that Mindspace Recovery College had a base in Blairgowrie offering ongoing courses and have a place for regular drop in sessions for support and company.
“It is difficult for non-drivers to have to rely on buses to get to Perth so it’s off-putting as often the times of groups either means having to wait on buses before or after a group.
“I have a sense that there are groups for youths and for the elderly – but, if like me, you don’t fit into those age groups there is no support for those in between.”
Another service user from Highland Perthshire said: “Just let it be known they say it’s okay to talk, there’s nobody there to listen.
“There is a lack of carers in Highland Perthshire.”
Xander McDade, Independent councillor for Highland Perthshire, said it was “vitally important” that mental health provision in rural areas met the needs of those in the community.
He said: “Certain groups in rural communities such as farmers have a higher rates of mental health problems and it is critical that they’re able to access support services in a way that supports them within their community.
“There is currently a need to shift the balance of care from centralised services to more community based care.
“Local constituents regularly make representation to me about their frustration at a lack of local services and the distances that have to be travelled to access services and this often puts people off accessing services until the reach a point of crisis.”
Susan Scott, development manager at mental health charity Plus Perth, believes the ongoing review by HSCP “looks good on paper” but will need to be properly funded.
Ms Scott said: “Prevention and really good crisis help is what’s really needed but that cannot be done without the proper resources.”
The HSCP said it has already began to tackle the problem in a report presented to the IJB, with six nurses recruited Perth and Kinross-wide and aligned to GP practices.
Evelyn Devine, head of health, said: “Funding for a coordinator for the ‘It’s Good to Talk’ service has been provided so that this service is now available in every GP Practice.
“Funding has been awarded to Mindspace to increase the number of
counselling sessions, to reduce waiting times and increase availability
in rural areas.”