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Free mental health services for all in Scottish Borders as NHS waiting times soar
Kooth/Supplied
Health & Care

Free mental health services for all in Scottish Borders as NHS waiting times soar 

Two online mental health and wellbeing services have been launched by Scottish Borders Council to ensure young people in the region receive and have access to timely support.

The council has commissioned digital platforms Kooth and Togetherall to offer the new services, which will “supplement and support” initiatives already in place in the local authority area.

This comes after data released by Public Health Scotland showed that the number of children and young people waiting more than a year to start mental health treatment is almost three times higher than a year ago – the worst figures on record.

The statistics also show that for the quarter ending March 2021, 72.5 per cent of children and young people were seen within 18 weeks.

The Scottish Government standard states that 90 per cent of children and young people should start treatment within 18 weeks of referral to CAMHS – children and adolescent mental health services.

Kooth is an online counselling and emotional wellbeing service providing young people aged 11 to 18 with a “safe and secure means of accessing support” from a professional team of qualified counsellors.

Togetherall provides a supportive community for those aged 16 and over. It boasts online self-help courses as well as “safe therapeutic services” delivered by trained professionals.

Both services, which are free to use and completely anonymous, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be accessed online from any device.

The digital resources are being funded by the Scottish Government’s ‘community health and wellbeing fund’, established to respond to children and young people’s mental health issues and support their families.

Councillor Shona Haslam, Scottish Borders Council leader, said: “The last year has seen a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of our young people, their families and other adults across the Borders. In response, we are extremely pleased to announce the launch of these two new initiatives which will provide much needed support for everyone as we take these next steps toward our further recovery. This investment is key to helping to build resilience after what has been an incredibly tough year, and demonstrates the commitment and importance of mental health to this administration.

“The new Kooth service is a significant addition to the support available for our young people while the Togetherall offering is one that can be accessed by residents of any age. I hope everyone will make use of these extremely helpful and accessible services with all the benefits that doing so will bring them.”

Dr Lynne Green, chief clinical officer at Kooth Plc, said: “We’re thrilled to have been commissioned to ensure the mental wellbeing of young people in the Borders is being looked after. Kooth makes it possible for anyone who is struggling with their mental health to get the help they need by removing any traditional barriers attached to seeking care. It is a safe, confidential platform and we hope that young people will use Kooth to assist them with anything that may be troubling them.”

Henry Jones, chief executive at Togetherall, added: “I’m delighted that we have been given the opportunity to support Borders residents aged 16 and over. It has no doubt been a challenging year for our mental health as a whole and with so many of us impacted by a range of issues and uncertainty about the future, the Togetherall community is here to support anyone who needs help 24/7, 365 days a year.”

The additional support for young people complements the existing ‘Quarriers resilience for wellbeing service’ which is now “well-established” in Borders schools and offers emotional health and wellbeing support using a counselling skills-based approach.

Quarriers, a Scottish social care charity, is further developing its service to provide additional weekly drop-in sessions and will be offering support as part of the summer activity programme being provided by the council and leisure centre Live Borders.

Angela Freeman, service co-ordinator for Quarriers, said: “As Covid restrictions are easing, we understand and recognise that young people may continue to have worries and concerns about the pandemic, returning to school and what it means for their future. We are delighted that the Scottish Borders Council has made a further commitment to supporting the mental health of the region’s young people both through its continued engagement with our service and now with the commissioning of Kooth and Togetherall.”

Kooth and Togetherall services can be accessed at www.kooth.com and www.togetherhall.com respectfully.

More information about Quarriers is available at: www.quarriers.org.uk/services/borders-resilience-for-wellbeing or by emailing: borders@quarriers.org.uk

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