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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Ruth Davidson calls for urgent mental health support to counter rise in cyberbullying

Written by The Press Association

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said greater access to mental health support is urgently needed to counter a rise in online "bully culture".

Ms Davidson has called for "vigorous" government action to tackle the pressures social media can bring to bear, particular on young people.

Delivering the Williamson Lecture at Stirling University, Ms Davidson argued that government must move faster to catch up with the mental health "crisis" caused by the explosion of social media.

She urged ministers to ensure equal consideration for mental and physical health, an objective backed by all parties during the Scottish Parliament elections.

The Scottish Conservatives also want greater access to mental health professionals in general practice and hospitals, and more counselling in secondary schools.

The Scottish Health survey last month found that one in five adults reported symptoms of depression in 2015, up from 14% six years ago.

Ms Davidson highlighted recent research by the UK Department for Education which found that of 30,000 pupils aged 14 and 15, one in three girls suffer from anxiety or depression, up 10% in the past decade.

She said: "T he clear verdict from research in this area suggests it is largely due to the ever more hostile social environment which young people are facing, o ne that is being super-charged by the explosion in the use of social media.

"The 'switched-on' generation exists in an environment where we are rarely absent from the public domain.

"For many, this public domain is one which judges people - and judges them harshly on purely external factors - by their looks, by their timeline, by the number of their likes - and heckles them if they are deemed to fall short. It is becoming little less than a bully culture.

"It is quite appalling - after forty years of advancement in gender equality, we appear to be going back in time to a society where girls once again feel they are overwhelmingly being judged by how they look.

"Is it any wonder that many of them are left feeling inadequate and end up with serious mental health problems?"

Ms Davidson said that while rules surrounding social media platforms should be part of the discussion, parity in the NHS between mental health and physical health was vital.

She said: " I believe we must see concerted government action which ensures far greater access to mental health support, particularly for the younger generation.

"The switched-on world is piling huge pressures on women - and men - to live up to unattainable expectations and the speed with which this revolution has occurred has caught us by surprise.

"Government must move quickly to catch up - and start providing people with the education they need on how to tackle this new world and stay psychologically healthy at the same time."

Mental health minister Maureen Watt said: "Mental health is an absolute priority of this government and we have already increased mental health spending by nearly 40% between 2006/07 and 2014/15.

"We have also committed an extra £150 million over five years to improve mental health services and have already invested some of that in innovation, improving access to child and adolescent mental health services and psychological therapies and primary care.

"We are looking at new and innovative ways to improve mental health and address problems as early as possible.

"We are currently working on our next strategy and have been speaking to those who use mental health services, the providers and professional bodies to help us shape our new approach."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2016, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Joe Giddens / PA Wire.