Mental health: Half of people using mental health services in Scotland feel worse now than at the start of coronavirus pandemic

New research involving people with mental health problems in Scotland has revealed that half say their mental health has been worse in the last few weeks than at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

These changes were recorded in the second of three reports being produced by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) in a longitudinal study seeking to understand the impact of coronavirus on people with mental health problems. 

Access to care

The latest round of research explored access to care and treatment, finding that a quarter of participants felt opportunities to discuss care and treatments options have gotten worse since earlier in the pandemic. 

Released today (20 November), SAMH’s new research found that people feel uninformed on the ways in which their support is changing, with 46 per cent saying they had not received adequate information on how the pandemic affects their care and treatment. 

One participant in the research says: “There is no mental health service in my area for the foreseeable future. An over-subscribed mental health nurse will phone you, but beyond that there is nothing at all.” 

Growing concerns around the effect of the pandemic on mental health highlight the importance of these research findings. 


“The impact of the pandemic on people with mental health problems cannot be overestimated,” stresses Billy Watson, chief executive at SAMH.

“Our latest research paints a picture of worsening mental health, a lack of information about care and treatment and real privacy issues in being able to discuss care and treatment. 

“We must make sure people can get access to support that works for them, and that people are given clear information about how their care will be delivered as circumstances continue to change.” 

Billy Watson, CEO of SAMH

Privacy concerns were raised in the research about both phone and video consultations: 36 per cent of those who had discussed their care through a video call and 27 per cent of those who had taken part in a phone consultation said a lack of privacy had been a problem for them. 


Claire, who is 39 and experiences depression, says: “Throughout lockdown I had been having a difficult time and I wanted to speak with my GP. I felt that I was having to battle through reception to even get to a doctor. Then you have to wait for a phone call appointment and you don’t know when you’ll get a call or who you’ll hear from. 

“My GP knows me and what works for me, which is why I wanted to see them specifically. Because of the triaging system they are using, I had no access to my own GP, but I also felt it wasn’t urgent enough to contact my consultant.” 


A quarter of respondents said they had been put off getting treatment or care for their mental health by the idea of phone consultations. 

Speaking of these concerns, one respondent says: “I feel frustrated that I cannot see my community psychiatric nurse face to face as I feel anxious speaking on the phone. Sometimes the connection is really poor so our conversation can be stilted.

“I much prefer a face to face discussion, as at home, I have no privacy and cannot freely discuss exactly what is going [on] in my head.” 

Satisfaction rates for video consultations were higher than for appointments taking place over the phone.

SAMH believes this could be because video calls were more likely to involve speaking to the same professional consistently. Of those who had taken part in a video or telephone consultation regarding their mental health, 42% said they had not spoken to the same person each time. 

If your mental health has been affected during the pandemic and you would like to speak with someone, visit the SAMH website or call Samaritans on 116 123. 

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