Mental health services are to be boosted by £500,000 of extra funding, the Scottish government has announced.
The funding comes on top of the existing £1,125,000 allocated to NHS 24 for mental health.
It will be used to improve the services offered to people experiencing low mood, depression and anxiety,
The number of people contacting NHS 24’s mental health line has more than doubled over the past decade, rising from 38,000 in 2006 to 87,000 in 2016.
NHS 24 services support those who need unscheduled care but do not need to contact emergency services.
Paula Shiels, a senior mental health nurse at NHS 24, told BBC Scotland it was hoped the money would be used to develop and deliver mental health services across Scotland in a “very different way”.
This would include access to guided self-help and therapy over the telephone, she said.
“For many people it’s really beneficial because actually the most difficult thing for people to do is to take that first step and have that face-to-face conversation about their mental health and wellbeing.
“So the opportunity across all our services – including our 111 service – is that ability to have that conversation in what can feel a very safe way because you’re not exposing yourself in that face-to face perspective.”
Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said: “Building on the plans laid out in our Mental Health Strategy, this £500,000 funding package will help NHS 24 to improve their mental health services, whether online or via telephone.
“This is a key part of our work to intervene early, which we know can help prevent problems from worsening.”
‘Growing’ waiting lists
The announcement comes on World Mental Health Day.
Scottish Labour inequalities spokeswoman Monica Lennon said Scotland’s mental health services were failing to cope with demand.
“Extra resources for the NHS 24 mental health helpline is necessary and welcome, but the Scottish government must get its act together quickly,” she said.
“What is it doing to tackle growing waiting lists? It’s a scandal that one in five young people are waiting longer than 18 weeks for mental health treatment and its unforgiveable that 17,000 young people have been turned away from mental health services in the last three years alone.
“The mental health minister, Maureen Watt, must make an urgent statement to the Scottish Parliament after recess about the action she has taken to investigate this and put things right.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrats said that last year there was an 8% rise in suicides in Scotland, and urged ministers to replace the Suicide Prevention Strategy which expired more than nine months ago.
Health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The recent mental strategy was 15 months late and and campaigners and charities have warned that it is unambitious and under-resourced.
“Similarly, the suicide prevention strategy expired in December 2016 and is yet to be replaced. We can’t afford for services in this area to be short.”