The Scottish Labour Members’ Campaign for Mental Health

zaicZaic Holbrook, director of Scottish Labour Members’ Campaign for Mental Health and Acting Chair of LGBT Labour Scotland, says radical improvement of mental health services in Scotland is now critical.


If I were to see my GP today (after having scheduled it two weeks in advance) and ask them for help with any mental health condition, I would be put on a free prescription courtesy of NHS Scotland, make an appointment for a month’s time to see how the prescription is working and get it renewed.

I would not get psychiatric treatment for another 6-8 months if I couldn’t afford to go private. The alternative for quicker treatment would be to reach a crisis point in my mental health and need to go to A&E.

To put this in perspective, the Scottish Government changed the waiting list targets for psychiatric services from 6 months to 4 months back in 2014. It even created a minister for mental health in the Scottish cabinet. But instead of this delivering progress, things have only become worse.  By the SNP’s own admission, not enough is being done for the NHS to meet its new 18 week target. In fact, one in five patients have to wait even longer than that; five of the NHS Scotland boards still are not meeting the previous 26 week wait target.

The wait is so long, it’s very likely a person will receive post-crisis treatment.

I’m currently on an NHS waiting list for the second time in the last three years for mental health services. I know I’m not alone in this as the waiting times in NHS Lothian have increased from 4 months the first time I sought treatment, to being told by my GP back in September to expect to wait 6-8 months for non-specialised psychiatric services, maybe a wee bit less for the specialised one. I was told I’d have better luck getting counselling from the third sector or from the university if I couldn’t go private, but that both these services are stretched thin and underfunded.

You can’t go to a cinema without seeing the brilliant see me Scotland advert. This and similar campaigns to raise awareness and tackle stigma of mental health conditions have proven successful. We’ve seen a 12% drop in the suicide rate in Scotland last year. With this success comes an increase in the number of people less afraid to seek the help they need, which is fantastic. But in its current state and with cuts to funding from the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland is simply unable to cope with the increased demand. Given the government’s consistent underspending of the budget, this is farcical.

But it’s not just cuts to the NHS that are proving disastrous for those of us with mental health conditions in Scotland. Many of the frontline community services provided by councils have been cut as we face continued slashing of council funding on top of nine years of the Council Tax freezes imposed by John Swinney. Adding to all of this, there is still massive stigma towards people with mental health conditions, especially in the workplace, and our current climate of neoliberal austerity and economic uncertainty leave many of us unable to cope with daily living. Only Scottish Labour has actually set out a plan to tackle this.

Nine years in, and the SNP’s record on tackling this crisis we face as a nation is failure. We cannae rely on a government that is intent on covering up the rotting stench of deteriorating and over-stretched public services with a few thistles. We need Scottish Labour to lead on a campaign to fix our Mental Health services, to properly fund them, and to improve them radically.

We need to stop treating a four month wait as a lofty goal, and instead see it for what it is: a scandal.

This February, several party members and I are launching the Scottish Labour Members’ Campaign for Mental Health up in Edinburgh. We’ve come up with simple pledges for our candidates, and they are all the sort of things that any candidate from any party should adhere to:

  • to ensure their staff have mental health awareness training,
  • to visit their local psychiatric hospital ward and talk to current and past service users, and
  • to talk to local businesses and schools about mental health.

It’s great to hear that over a quarter of our list candidates have already agreed to sign our pledge, and the signups just keep rolling in. These conversations need to be had in, and be enabled by, Scottish Labour.

We’ll be launching this conversation on the 14th of February at Teviot Row House in Edinburgh.

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29 thoughts on “The Scottish Labour Members’ Campaign for Mental Health

  1. Really impressed with this Zaic. A members-led campaign focused on an incredibly important issue and highlighting a reality far different from the rhetoric of government.

    All good wishes for the launch and for getting our candidates to sign up to the pledge. This is how politics makes a difference.

    1. Oh that’s nice once again Duncan shows his full support for corruption bare face lying and despicable fearmongering.

      Duncan you have no shame at all.

  2. “If I were to see my GP today (after having scheduled it two weeks in advance) and ask them for help with any mental health condition, I would be put on a free prescription courtesy of NHS Scotland, make an appointment for a month’s time to see how the prescription is working and get it renewed.

    I would not get psychiatric treatment for another 6-8 months if I couldn’t afford to go private. The alternative for quicker treatment would be to reach a crisis point in my mental health and need to go to A&E.”

    This is pure unadulterated bullshit:

    Your GP will refer you for a psychiatric assessment if he or she believes you show symptoms of mental health issues. Your GP will not prescribe mental health medication at this point unless he or she is also qualified in mental health assessment.

    Your initial mental health assessment will determine whether or not medication will be prescribed either as an initial form of treatment or as part of the ongoing assessment. It all depends on the severity or nature of the symptoms.

    Nobody believes mental health assessment is easy its far more difficult that physical health assessment and as a result takes time in many cases it can take years.

    The level and timing of the treatment is purely dependent of the severity of the symptoms and the risk to the patient of self harm or harm to others.

    Another piece of shameful party politick using vulnerable services. Shouting crises when there is none and creating a false sense of fearmongering.

    This shameful despicable party politicking can actually put people off seeking the treatment they need.

    May Labour rot in the wilderness its diving headlong into.

    1. Thanks for highlighting the fact that your comment is pure unadulterated bullshit. I have to agree, but it’s refreshing to see you accepting it.

      Do not call someone’s personal experience a lie, Mike. And stop defending the SNP at all costs when it is abundantly clear that in this area, as in many others, they are failing badly.

      1. Someone didn’t detail their personal experience based on specifics Duncan and as a result made a party political piece of propaganda instead of a biography.

        The specifics would show that in this specific case the symptoms didn’t warrant an initial mental health assessment and non mental health medication was prescribed by a GP.

        There is no way on earth any GP worth the title would prescribe mental health medication prior to a mental health assessment. He would be struck off!

        Your bare face lying is beyond the joke you’re trying to make it out to be.

  3. I bet the symptoms were compulsive bare faced lying and the prescription was sodium thiopental.

    The Labour party on its own could create a mental health crises in Scotland if all of its members were to seek treatment for their compulsive bare faced lying.

    Tie the service up for decades.

  4. You want “labour to lead on a campaign to fix our mental health services” well that will put you at the back of a very long waiting list, infact the second coming will proberly be faster.

  5. Funny enough, the diagnosis wasn’t compulsive bare faced lying but then again maybe it’s newly discovered And my GP hasn’t heard of. Admittedly It’s difficult to lie about stab wounds that cause my PTSD but I’ll bring it up with them anyhow.

    And the medication is an SSRI, not truth serum.

    But many thanks for your concern about my health sweetie.

    1. [Personal medical interrogation of the author removed.]

      Moderator’s note 1: Mike, you have demonstrated yourself unfit to comment on this story. No more of your comments will be accepted.

      Moderator’s note 2: Thanks for the additional four comments you submitted subsequent to this, Mike. Please reread note 1.

      1. I’m trying to figure out what you’re so upset about. It’s not as if my experiences are even unique, and in fact it’s experienced by many mental health patients, regardless of party affiliation. Are they also bare face lying or is it just Labour supporters?

        Also just an FYI: Psychiatric assessment is only undertaken if you are believed to have a mental health condition which is not anxiety or depression, full psych assessment is only required for other conditions and as many conditions to experience some form of anxiety and depression you will be prescribed medication by your GP if those symptoms can be alleviated.

        I guess what I’m trying to say, in summary, is Fuck Off.

  6. This article is a really depressing article to read. But its ok I made an appointment with my doctor last August.

  7. “To properly fund them”—-OK, so what exactly are these Labour candidates signing up to?
    What level of extra funding does it require? Is it specific for mental health, or is it the entire Scottish NHS?
    Where will the extra money for that funding come from?
    More taxation? Cuts elsewhere?—just as long as it isn’t Trident, eh?

    It would appear there are more questions that answers provided, but hey, never mind the “details”, think of the votes to be reaped by spreading manure.

    1. Specific to the campaign at the moment, we are asking candidates if elected to talk to NHS mental health service users and work with schools and businesses to tackle stigma and workplace discrimination. As for manifesto points for the party, as a campaign we would want to see the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH)’s 2016 cross-party manifesto implemented.

      In regards to funding, increased funding across the NHS should be sought. Talking to many doctors and nurses and it’s clear that understaffing is a massive issue, regardless of what type of health is being treated. We could do with more progressive taxation. On a personal note I don’t think 1p raise on the top tier and we should be looking at changing how councils are allowed and should make council tax more progressive than it’s current situation. Also on a personal note and now a point of party policy, we should cut Trident.

      We’re welcoming questions and ideas at our meeting on Sunday. I’m sure we can collectively create a solution to the current problems that we face.

  8. Thanks for your answer, Zaic.
    Scotland is heading into an unfortunate place right now. We are to have only two tax rates we will have any control over—-actually the same two we have had since devolution was instigated.
    Income tax and council tax.
    What we really need are powers to help us grow our eçonomy. This is the “tax trap” the Tories are so gleeful about.
    Southern Ireland and Southern England are growing at a fast rate. They both have governments working on their behalf, and using fiscal tools denied to Scotland.

    1. Weird, then, that the SNP have already changed stamp duty and have plans to cut APD. Better tell them they aren’t getting power over them.

      Better tell them they don’t have power over business rates too – that’ll shock them. And that they can’t enable any kind of local taxation, like a tourist bed tax, or the conversion of Council Tax into something more progressive and effective.

      Yes, you’d definitely better get on the blower to the Scottish Government pronto. Only two taxes you say…

      1. Ha ha, Dunk. Reeled you in. I should have said, “only two taxes” LABOUR want to utilise.
        Though of course they will increase spending by NOT changing ADP.
        You couldn’t make it up—-unless your name is Baillie!

  9. I sympathise with all folks of whatever political leaning who have mental heath issues however I am cynical that the purpose of this article was an over exaggeration of Zaics issues for a political purpose that shows me that he is using his alleged condition as a vehicle to carve himself a political careerist niche in the Red Tories this attempt to use mental health issues for personal gain does a great disservice to all folks who suffer from mental health issues.

    1. Well you just lost your commenting privileges too, you nasty little article.

    2. May be a bit difficult to carve out a political career with the ‘Red Tories’ if my plans to emigrate are successful. Also voluntary campaigning on issues already gives me a headache. Why would I want to do it full time?

      Would rather just spend my time with Netflix pretending to do dissertation work but alas mental health and the policies and provisions around it affect me and many people across Scotland. And we can talk about the good things like the see me campaign, the SAMH manifesto and free prescriptions, but we do need to address things that need to be fixed and need to be changed, like the waiting times for psychiatric services. Changing it requires political action. If it didn’t I wouldn’t have bothered with this campaign.

  10. Duncan,

    Just who will you have left to comment on the articles if you just ban folk when you feel they overstep the mark – you are the sites Moderator sure and this is within your responsibility of course, but it does look like you have taken a strop regarding the comment from “Will” at 6:42. I must admit that I tend to side with Will’s viewpoint on this particular article.

    I think the websites strap line refers to “Open Debate”.. within boundaries of course of which I would have thought a warning rather than ban was probably more appropriate.

    1. No strop here. This article is a brave and honest one and of course open to criticism, but I have taken the view that anyone who responds by suggesting the author is a liar is not fit to comment further on that article.

      Both “Mike” and “Will” remain free to vomit their garbage on other articles. They are just no longer welcome to vomit in this particular vicinity.

      As you say, it’s entirely my decision, and I’m happy with it, thanks.

    2. On a personal note, I don’t mind criticism on the article. I won’t pretend to have all the answers and welcome feedback.

      I do have a problem with the suggestion that I’ve lied or exaggerated about my own mental illness (the specifics of which I’ve avoided in the article but is diagnosed PTSD and depression). It’s malicious and frankly just untrue.

      As for the careerist thing: you can think that all you want. I’ve no interest in it. Send me off to a commune with fast wifi and I’d be much more satisfied.

  11. El Capitano I know that you won’t publish this comment like you did not do with my last comment but just so that you do not take me for a mug I am letting you know that I have worked out that you either forwarded my last comment to Zaic and encouraged him to respond to my original comment or alternatively it was you yourself that responded to it on his behalf so there it is you have stooped to the lowest level of the gutter politics and have demonstrated that you are the number one stooge and puppet of the union it is because of people like you that Independence will come sooner rather than later you are afraid of the truth.

    1. Hi “Will”.

      Neither of the two possibilities you posit are what happened. I simply binned your last comment, and Zaic responded entirely independently to your previous one. But of course, the problem with conspiracy theories is that denial only makes you believe them more, so it’s pretty pointless me setting out the reality; you won’t believe me anyway.

      Top marks, though, for turning this paranoid nonsense into a reason for independence. I am consistently impressed with the ability of people like yourself to do that. Truly you are Nicola’s Army.

      1. El Capitano I am so overwhelmed humbled and happy that you should bestow upon me the recognition and honour as being one of Nicola’s Army coming from youself El Capitano such a fulcrum of the Scottish Labour section Red Tories it means so much to me and this has done wonders for my kudos so keep up the good work.

  12. Mental health services are in disarray and have been for decades under all types of governments left,right and centre. Too much emphasis has been placed on physical health. All parties are trying to make these services better for our future children. No point in being physically well when mental health isn’t good. GPS now use psychological therapies in the 1st instance prior to starting meds its cheaper and more effective. No side effects. However there are people that require meds and that’s appropriate. Personnel centred care is the name of the vame

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