Edinburgh MSP claims mental health services 'on brink' as loneliness takes its toll

Mental health services in Scotland could be on the brink of being overrun, an MSP has claimed after a Red Cross report warned of the "devastating" impact of loneliness during the pandemic.

Two in five people say loneliness is having a negative impact on their mental health
Two in five people say loneliness is having a negative impact on their mental health

The report found 39 per cent of UK adults had not had a meaningful conversation with someone in a fortnight and a third worried something would happen to them and no one would notice. Two in five people said loneliness was having a negative impact on their mental health.

And people who have not felt comfortable leaving their homes said they felt “left behind” as they watched others resume their social lives.

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Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "For far many Scots the curse of loneliness is taking a toll on their mental wellbeing.

"Mental health services in Scotland were already stretched before the pandemic. Now I am concerned they are on the brink of being completely overrun. The Scottish Government must give real heft to a mental health recovery plan.

"I know the strain of the pandemic forcing so many of us to isolate and reduce social contact to an absolute minimum has been difficult and increased loneliness for people. So many vital support networks are on hold and it’s hard when we can’t say when socialising can resume.

"I would also urge everyone to check in on their friends and neighbours. A kind word can make a massive difference in these difficult times. It also shows the importance of not overlooking the wider harm occurring because of covid, and ensuring public health measures take this into account."

The Red Cross report

called for governments across the four nations to launch a plan to tackle loneliness this winter; ensure those most at risk of loneliness are able to access the mental health and emotional support they need to cope; and build tackling loneliness into Covid-19 recovery plans.

Marie Hayes, Scotland director of the British Red Cross, said: “The effects of loneliness can be devastating. Long-term, it can be as bad for your health as smoking or obesity. Those in charge are right to take the steps needed to stop the spread of this deadly virus, but alongside this should be greater support for those who will find the coming weeks and months especially difficult and lonely."

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