'I was told I was being a drama queen' - Mental health services for Scottish youngsters falling short

Young people in Scotland have told ITV News how they have been denied mental health treatment because their condition was deemed "not serious enough".

“They told me it was because I wasn’t self-harming or suicidal,” one said.

“I was told I was being a drama queen,” another revealed.

Their messages are just a snapshot of the situation in Scotland, where mental health services for children are overwhelmed and under-resourced. One in five young people referred by their GP for mental health treatment is being rejected.

The Scottish Government has set up a taskforce to reform the children’s mental health system, under which only three of the 14 health boards are meeting the 18-week waiting time target for treatment.

Caitlyn-Jay Wyllie-Quinn is 21. She was aware her mental health was struggling when she was a young teenager and was referred to CAMHS aged 15.

But she waited almost a year to be assessed – before being turned away.

“They said it was because I wasn’t a serious enough case,” she said.

“It just made things so much worse. I felt alone. I felt as though my feelings weren’t valid enough, that I wasn’t worth anything and it just took my mental health to a whole new level.”

The Scottish government says it wants the views of children and young people to shape changes to the system.

  • This is what a group of young people with experience of Scotland's mental health services told us they would like to see changed:

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, said it is “not acceptable” that children have to wait for treatment and that the government taskforce will help improve services.

“What we will have in Scotland in the future is shorter waiting times, easier access and access where the children and young people need it,” she said.

The Scottish Government has already commissioned research to find out why there has been a sudden surge in young people seeking support for their mental health.

They discovered the biggest spike - by far - is in teenage girls.

The suggestion is 13-15 year old girls are far more adversely affected by pressures of social media and cyber bullying than boys.

They also found there is a distinct gap in support for those who are rejected by CAMHS, leaving young people who are struggling with little or no support.

Now charities are trying to fill that void.

Mary Glasgow from Children 1st said, "CAMHS is not always. the appropriate service for young people, and GPs are not equipped to deal with children's mental health in a 10 minute appointment."

Children 1st are trialing a support service where there is no limit on appointment times so young people can take as long as they need to talk about what they are going through.

"We've found after a nine month trial that this support service is working for young people who would otherwise be rejected from the existing services."

  • For more information or if you know of anyone who would like advice or support about a mental health problem, you can visit any of the following websites:

The Scottish Association for Mental Health

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition