Mental health and the running of the NHS tops voter priorities in Courier country, the latest polling has found.
In an extra-large survey carried out by Survation for DC Thomson politics, fears over a lack of provision in psychiatric and psychological services dominates public concern in a post-pandemic world.
A scathing report released in March last year called for a complete overhaul of NHS Tayside’s mental health service.
Fifty recommendations were laid out following a 16-month investigation.
Around 87% of Courier readers think mental health services and health provision is important, with 55% telling us it is very important.
The operation of health and mental health services in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Government.
The Strang Inquiry
Released weeks before the country was put into its first full lockdown, former prison inspector Dr David Strang unveiled his near year-and-a-half long investigation into the way NHS Tayside operated its mental health service.
In any other year, hand-in-hand with the latest dreadful statistics on Dundee’s drug deaths, Dr Strang’s damning report would have led the news cycle, not just for us but nationally too.
Dr Strang concluded there was a “striking failure of governance” and lack of mental health strategy.
He also uncovered a lack of trust between patients and mental health staff, families and carers.
Currently in Dundee, where a quarter of residents are on anti-depressants, there is an 18-month waiting list to see psychiatric services for patients who have been referred by a GP.
Major staff shortages have further compounded issues, with latest reports showing recruitment levels lower than the Scottish average.
Readers told us Scottish independence and Brexit, although important, are not as pressing a problem as mental health, the NHS, jobs, education, cost of living and the economy.
Desire for better health transition transcends age, with more than 80% of all age groupings 16-24, 25-34, 45-54, 55-64 and 65+ all agreeing it is one of their top priorities.
Men and women across Scotland dubbed it of near-equal importance, with 78% of men and 83% of women saying so.
‘Mental health should be at the forefront’
Molly, a 20-year-old who lives in Perth, took part in our survey.
The furloughed admin worker said she believes mental health provision should be high on the political agenda in this year’s election.
“Mental health should be at the forefront now,” she said.
“Before the pandemic I had never really thought about what trying to access mental health services (involved), but in the past year things have changed.
“I wouldn’t know where to reach out or where to go. I don’t think there is that much space or help for anyone trying to access mental health services and I do think it is hard for a lot of young people, it is a growing problem an there is a mental health crisis, made worse by Covid-19.
“It is a very important issue.”
Rebecca, 24, is a trainee teacher from Kellas, Dundee, who still works in her part-time job at Greggs.
She told us there hasn’t been enough support in mental health.
“Sadly, there have been several reports in local newspapers and social media of people my age who have sadly passed away because of suicide and mental health issues.
“I feel there is not enough support for that particular field.
“Lots of people are suffering with their mental health during covid, especially if they are living on their own or they don’t have that good a support network. These people are really struggling and unfortunately felt they had no other choice.
“I feel like it is something that really needs to improve and not just because of the pandemic. I do not feel there is enough funding in general for mental health.”
Work under way
Local authorities and NHS Tayside have both promised to work to improve mental health provision.
NHS Tayside said previously it is committed to developing and designing services using the expertise of all stakeholders.
Calls have been repeatedly made for a crisis centre in Dundee, with political parties already promising to include this issue in their manifestos.
Following the publication of Dr Strang’s report, NHS Tayside said: “The Scottish Government will monitor NHS Tayside’s progress through the continuation of the NHS Tayside Oversight group and will continue to seek assurance that the required improvements are being implemented, working alongside Cosla to ensure health boards, local authorities and health and social care partnerships are supported to work together across Scotland to build on the Strang report recommendations.”