Caithness secures mental health investment
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Highland Council’s health, social care and wellbeing (HSCW) committee has today agreed to prioritise the Caithness area in allocating funding for mental health support for young people.
The Scottish Government has provided the council with a grant of £534,000 to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing post-Covid, and additionally provided £178,000 to plan and prepare for the development of community mental health and wellbeing services for 5- to 24-year-olds, their families and carers.
Wick and east Caithness councillor Nicola Sinclair, vice-chair of the HSCW committee and chair of Caithness Committee said: "Caithness has lost more lives to suicide during Covid than it has to Covid itself. The message is crystal clear from every organisation I work with, every elected member and every person I meet on the street – the time to act is now."
In a report to HSCW committee, Caithness was proposed as the "pathfinder" area, meaning that the initial investment will be focused in the county, with a pilot project to be agreed in detail at a local level. The mental health project is likely to focus on crisis support, out-of-hours mental health services and adopting some of the principles of the Icelandic model to addiction, which focuses on early intervention, education, youth activities and sport.
Having secured approval at the committee, the council together with NHS Highland, Police Scotland and the local third sector will meet for an urgent workshop to agree the details of the mental health project locally, and the plan will be ratified by a special meeting of the Caithness Committee in early December, attended by the chief executives of Highland Council and NHS Highland, Donna Manson and Pamela Dudek.
Caithness was agreed as the pathfinder area in recognition of the close partnership working between local third sector organisations, the Community Planning Partnership and the main statutory service providers. The community resilience effort during covid was held up as an example of best practice across Highland, and Caithness now has well-supported working groups tackling issues around mental health, isolation and addiction. These groups are attended by councillors cross-party, and representatives of Highland Council and NHS Highland.
Thurso and northwest Caithness councillor Karl Rosie said: "I’m delighted to have the support of Highland Council members and officers for this pilot and absolutely committed to delivering a successful project. I also recognise the importance of taking the community on that journey with us."
Mental health services have become an increasingly important topic in Caithness in recent months, following several tragic deaths relating to suicide and addiction.
Councillor Sinclair added: "By working in close partnership we now have a good understanding of the services we have locally but also of the gaps and the areas where we need to improve.
"Some of that is around crisis support out-of-hours and some of it relates to early intervention work and supporting our young people to feel safe, to feel valued and to have things to do and a sense of hope for their future. I am so proud of the local groups – many of them volunteers – and the campaigners who have helped us get to where we are today.
"In the next few weeks we will work tirelessly to pull together a package of support that we hope will make a genuine difference. We ask the public to get behind this and continue to support one another as they have done so well in recent months."