MENTAL Health Minister Clare Haughey committed to improve services to meet “changing demand” when she updated Holyrood on the government strategy on the subject yesterday.

Her statement came amid renewed focus on the issue after a number of developments including the publication of a report earlier this year that one in five referrals of children for specialist treatment had been rejected.

The figure prompted the First Minister to put mental health provision for children at the heart of her Programme for Government where she set out plans for 350 counsellors and 250 extra school nurses.

Addressing Holyrood, Haughey, a former mental health nurse, said the government’s Mental Health Strategy gave more support to young people, introduced a programme for new mothers and also delivered next-day help for more than 1000 people who had experienced mental health distress. She said: “Scotland’s 10-year mental health strategy paints a clear and aspiring picture of a Scotland where people get the right help at the right time, free from stigma, and where we treat mental health with the same commitment as we do physical health. I am very proud of the achievements and progress in its first 18 months.

“However, there is still much to do. People now understand mental health better and are more open and willing to seek help. We must ensure our services reflect these changing needs and demands. We will do this through our strategy, other significant steps we are taking, and the quarter of a billion pounds of new money we will invest over the next five years.”

The first progress report of the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy, published in March 2017, outlines that 13 of the strategy’s 40 actions are either complete or nearly complete, and another 26 are under way.

Alongside the strategy, the government has set up a taskforce to review children and adolescents’ mental health services, created a youth commission, launched a national conversation with young people about mental health, and published a new suicide prevention action plan.