Half of Scots are concerned about the impact the cost of living crisis is having on their mental health, new research by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland has found.
A YouGov poll of more than 1,063 adults in Scotland revealed 52% were concerned about the impact; while eight in 10 (82%) thought demand for mental health services will increase in the future.
The survey also showed the issues that people are most concerned about impacting on their mental health – with 85% saying rising energy costs, 79% rising food costs while 31% cited increasing debt.
Meanwhile, 27% of Scots said they had experienced a new episode of poor mental health over the past year.
Now RCPsych in Scotland is calling on all candidates – in the race to become the next first minister – to look at prioritising mental health.
The College also wants to see a reverse on the freeze on mental health budgets in 2023/24 and an increase in the mental health workforce, as demand for services is set to soar.
Dr Jane Morris, vice-chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said:
“These are deeply worrying statistics and encapsulate the feelings of Scottish people about how the current cost of living crisis is affecting everyone’s mental health.
“From relationship breakdowns to worries about crippling debt and wondering how you’ll pay for the next energy bill or feed your children – these situations are tough and can have an enormous effect on anybody’s mental health. There is already plenty of evidence that financial stress is associated with worse physical and mental health. The opposite is also true: poor health is likely to lead to impaired financial management.
“We cannot provide medical solutions to society’s economic problems, but we do need to support people with mental disorders to cope with the extra challenges.
“This is why it’s very important that whoever becomes the new first minister, continues to prioritise mental health and look at reversing the freeze on mental health budgets for 2023/24.”
Denise McLaren (37) lives in Stirling and has a diagnosis of personality disorder (emotional unstable personality disorder) and anxiety disorder. With the pandemic then cost of living crisis, Denise said she has really struggled but recently turned her life around by volunteering at local foodbank called Ladies of the Rock.
“I’m a face-to-face person – during the pandemic when we went into the second and third lockdown I thought, I can’t do this. I need to do something or otherwise I’m going to go back the way. I turned it around and started volunteering at the community foodbank.
“At first, I wouldn’t say boo to a ghost but being part of this group has really helped me come out of myself. Working at the larder, I’ve seen first-hand how the cost of living crisis has affected people.
“It’s got busier and we’re now serving up to 80 families a week. To say I’m not anxious about the cost of living situation would be a lie – but then I think everyone is really worried about it.
“My mental health is fortunately good at the moment, but I’ve seen what mental ill health can do to someone and it makes me want help others.
“A lot of people know others with mental health issues, but a lot of folks don’t realise there are people who’ve never had a mental health problem and are now struggling because of the economic uncertainty.
“It’s a terrible situation and it’s obviously having an enormous effect on our NHS. We need a plan in place to help people’s mental health through this crisis.”
Gabby Quinn (36) lives in Dennistoun and has a diagnosis of bipolar and psychosis. She says the cost of living crisis has exacerbated both conditions. Gabby currently runs a local mental health support group in Glasgow.
“The cost of living payments did help but the next one isn’t until spring and with my mental health conditions, I need to be able to plan ahead. I need structure. So, it’s having an enormous negative affect on my mental health.
“People come to our social group because they need help with their condition because they can’t get an appointment on the NHS – but we’re not medical experts.
“We’ve had people signing up to the group anonymously because they don’t want to be seen as trying to get better as they will be punished for it as the Department for Work and Pensions would stop their benefits immediately, if they got better.
“Members of my group who’ve used activities to try and get well have had that used against them, being pulled off benefits before they should’ve been. Which makes them very ill again. They’re scared of the repercussions.
“I think the UK and Scottish Governments need to remember that a lot of people cannot afford to buy themselves lunch and there is a lot of people have never faced mental health challenges before, but now there are a lot of people needing support. There needs to be a middle ground between you’re ok – to – I’m in crisis.
“There needs to be something in place before people get to crisis level. It would be a heck of a lot easier on the NHS and a lot better for those suffering from mental ill health in the long run.”