BBC News

In the Mind: Key facts about mental health in Scotland

By Eleanor Bradford
BBC Scotland Health Correspondent

image copyrightNewscast

Mental illness is one of the major health challenges in Scotland.

It is estimated that more than one in three people are affected by a mental health problem each year. The most common illnesses are depression and anxiety.

Only about 1-2% of the population have psychotic disorders. 1 in 3 GP appointments relates to a mental health problem.

Poverty a factor

The more deprived the area, the higher its rate of mental illness.

People living in the most deprived areas are more than three times as likely to spend time in hospital as a result of mental illness compared to people living in the least deprived areas.

The suicide rate is more than three times higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas.

Employment is good for mental health. Although most people with mental health problems are employed, generally people have better mental health when in employment than when jobless.

Men and women different

Twice as many women as men went to their GP because of depression or anxiety in 2010/11, but the suicide rate is three times higher for men than women.

image copyrightNewscast

Although equal numbers of men and women are hospitalised due to mental illness, men are more likely to be admitted with schizophrenia and conditions related to substance abuse.

Women are more likely to have mood disorders or a personality disorder.

Antidepressant use

About 1 in 8 of Scots (12%) take use an antidepressant every day.

The other main drugs for mental health are used by only 1-3% of the population.

image copyrightSPICe

Stigma decreasing

In 2009, 58% of people who had suffered a mental health problem had experienced stigma or discrimination at some point in the previous five years.

In 2007, it was 82%.

Scots happiest

People living in Scotland are happier than other parts of the UK.

According to the Office for National Statistics, people living in Scotland and Northern Ireland are the most "satisfied".

The local authority where the people gave the highest average score was Eilean Siar.

On average, the people in the Western Isles gave their life satisfaction a score of 8.41 out of 10.

Successive Scottish governments claimed mental health a top priority - but what is situation?

How much is spent?

This is hard to calculate because it is up to Scotland's health boards and councils to decide how much they spend, and it can be difficult to define.

However, some spending trends can be calculated:

  • Spending on community psychiatric care increased by 34% (taking account of inflation) between 2006/7 and 2012/13
  • Spending on clinical psychologists increased by 13% (taking account of inflation) between 2006/7 and 2012/13
  • Local authority spending fluctuated, then steadily increased, and has now plateaued.
image copyrightSPICe

Numbers rising

The number of people being treated for mental health issues is rising.

This does not appear to be because more people have mental illness, but because more people are accessing treatment as understanding grows and the stigma of mental illness reduces.

However, the ageing population has led to an increase in the number of people with dementia.

image copyrightNewscast

A new strategy for mental health is overdue. The last one ran out at the end of 2015.

More people are being treated at home. Since 1998 the number of people in psychiatric hospital has fallen by at least a third. This reflects the shift towards various forms of care in the community.

Long waits

Some people wait a long time for specialist care.

Last year, new targets came into force to reduce long waits to see a specialist, however the NHS has not been able to meet them.

81% of people saw a psychologist within 18 weeks, against a target of 90%. This figure has not changed much since recording began.

73% of children saw a specialist within 18 weeks, against a target of 90%. Children are waiting slightly longer than they did in 2014 and 2015.

However, the NHS only began recording information about mental health waiting times in 2012. Before then we don't know how long people were waiting.

Working in mental health

The number of professionals has risen slightly, but not in all areas.

image copyrightSPICe

The total number of staff working in psychiatry rose by 8% between 2002 and 2013.

There were increases in staff in general psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, old age psychiatry and learning disabilities.

The number of staff working in child and adolescent psychiatry, and psychotherapy have fallen.

Falling suicide rate

The number of suicides peaked between 1992 and 2002 but have been falling since then.

The most recent comparable figures for 2014 suggest the lowest number of suicides since 1977. However, in 2010, the Scottish suicide rate was much higher than in England and Wales.

For men it was 73% higher while for women it was almost double. Some of this difference may be due to the way statistics are gathered.


Scottish Parliament SPICe briefing; ISD Scotland; Choose Life; Scottish Association for Mental Health.

Related Topics

  • Scottish government
  • Mental health
  • NHS Scotland

More on this story

  • Nicola Sturgeon to announce £54m boost for mental health services