Campaigners have given a cautious welcome to the news that an announcement about a 24 hour mental health crisis centre for Dundee could be only weeks away.
Councillor Ken Lynn, Dundee City Council’s health spokesman and chairman of Dundee City Health and Social Care integrated joint board has said he hopes there will be more detail about agreed proposals for a centre within weeks rather than months.
The councillor said he is “fully behind” the call for a 24/7 dedicated centre, adding: “This has already been agreed by councillors and we are at the stage of firming up the details of providing a centre of this type.
“The pandemic has very much got in the way of this happening so far but hopefully it will now be weeks rather than months before some further detail and information regarding proposals can be shared.”
It comes after a number of calls for a centre of this kind, sparked by recent deaths in the city.
An independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside also suggested a centre as part of a raft of improvements.
It is hoped patients will be able to put themselves for treatment, without the need for a doctor’s referral.
Mr Lynn added: “At a meeting of a mental health sub group of the IJB we listened to comment from Dundee’s Fairness Commission on this subject who recommended a crisis centre very strongly.
“We also are aware that the Strang Report advocated a centre and we as a health care partnership in the city realise we need to listen to what people are asking for.
“We are listening to people’s experiences. There is a mental health crisis in Dundee and the pandemic has undoubtedly added to that.”
One of Dundee’s main campaigners for the centre, Phil Welsh, said: “If Dundee councillors have backed, unanimously, support for a non referral 24 hour crisis centre, this is long awaited good news for the city.”
Mr Welsh, who runs the campaign group Not in Vain for Lee in memory of his son Lee who took his own life in August 2017, said he had been pleading with the authorities to do something.
He added: “Dundee has suffered more than its fair share of suicides over the last few years. If this centre can help anyone when they reach that pinnacle of crisis then through our campaign Lee’s death will indeed not have been in vain.”
Dundee has suffered more than its share of suicide over the last few years. If this centre can help anyone when they reach that pinnacle of crisis then through our campaign Lee’s death will indeed not have been in vain.
Mandy McLaren, whose son Dale Thomson took his own life in January 2015, just days after spending time in Dundee’s mental health facility, the Carseview Centre, said she gave a cautious welcome to the announcement.
She said: “If this turns out to be accurate then that is perfect news.
“However, we need to wait and see and I would need to hear an awful lot more detail about how this would work and who would operate it.
“We need a crisis centre but we also need more than that.
“We need early intervention to stop people getting to the stage where they feel they are in crisis and we need after care as well.
“We also need support for families of people in crisis, for the mums and dads and other family members who are also affected.
“Changes are desperately needed to the entire system. These could have been made by now but instead everything has been held up by bureaucracy and red tape.”
Brook Marshall, chief executive of youth mental health charity Feeling Strong, also stressed the need for self-referrals to be available at any future centre.
He said: “We are strongly in favour of an accessible 24/7 crisis centre in Dundee which accepts self-referrals.
“Suicide prevention is a critical issue in Dundee and we believe that the opportunity this presents to prevent avoidable deaths cannot be overstated.”
‘We are in crisis’
The announcement came as councillors considered a new Tayside Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy report – Living Life Well – presented at a full council meeting on Monday night.
The report said work is ongoing to develop a “world class” mental health strategy for the “coming years”.
It continued: “The Tayside Strategy will help set the right conditions for improvements to be made in multi-agency working that will benefit the population and in particular people with lived experience.
“The cross sector workforce will also benefit from collaborative approaches.
“We are in pursuit of world-class mental health service in Tayside.”
But Lochee Labour councillor Michael Marra said while the report was “well meaning” it did not promise quick enough action.
“There has been an avalanche of mental health cases and we are in a crisis situation and there is an urgency to do something,” he added.
Labour group leader Kevin Keenan moved an amendment, which was defeated by 17 votes to 11 to set up a working group to oversee the implementation of the strategy.
Mr Keenan said: “The people of Dundee are demanding action on mental health and a lengthy strategy that sits on the shelf will not suffice.
“We need urgent action now.
“We are losing Dundonians to suicide week on week. It is a terrible human cost of inaction and failing services.
“Local people in crisis still find themselves without support. Our elected politicians need to drive action not just wring their hands. ”
Council leader John Alexander said he would be looking for six monthly updates as to how the strategy was progressing and more regular updates for councillors.