Gillian Campbell, acting service manager for Community Health and Wellbeing with Falkirk Council, says the response to the new services – which are all free – shows how badly they are needed and feedback has been positive.
On offer is help for a huge variety of issues that can affect young people, from tackling depression, anxiety and self-harming to building self-confidence and managing emotions.
But they are concerned that the message about the new help and support that is now available needs to reach more young people aged over 14, particularly those who are no longer in school.
Funding from the Scottish Government allowed Falkirk Council to set up several new mental health services that offer either face-to-face or digital support.
Each of the services, which were fully launched in March, works with a different partner – with the charities Aberlour, Barnardo’s and FDAMH all key players.
Each also targets a slightly different age group among the ages five to 26, to make sure that services are age appropriate.
The team has a clear policy that there is “no wrong door” for anyone looking for help. Whoever gets the first request will make sure that the person seeking support is referred to the appropriate service as quickly as possible.
There is constant pressure on CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) which has been criticised for its long waiting times for several years. But there has also been criticism that children and young people who are turned down by CAMHS have been left in limbo.
Ms Campbell says the new services are working closely with colleagues in health and she hopes that the new services will quickly make a difference.
“If we do our jobs properly it should have an impact on CAMHS waiting lists, which we know are unfortunately high.
“But a high number of referrals to CAMHS get knocked back, so it’s maybe that this was the right level of service they needed anyway. It’s making sure we have that pathway.”
As well as the face-to-face help offered through the charities, the new digital services are also proving their worth.
Kooth, for 10-18 year olds, has had high numbers of registrations and offers a “safe, controlled environment” that is heavily moderated.
“The first month alone we had 270 registrations which we thought was really quite high – it’s now well over 300.”
Togetherall, which is for age 16-26, has seen relatively few registrations but there is evidence that those who registered are spending a long time and returning several times to the site.
“We are finding age 16 plus, who have left school, are harder to reach so our numbers aren’t as high but we are finding that people who use it, use it really well,” said Ms Campbell.
They also find that men are more reluctant to access services than women, something that reflects the national situation.
“We are really focusing in on what we can do for men and boys, so we have some pilots looking at targeted areas, such as working with employers locally.”
Data from 2019 showed that Falkirk has one of the highest suicide rates in Scotland so the team knows the work that they do is vital. The hope is that early intervention from a very young age will have an effect.
“It’s fairly early days but there are lots of positive signs,” said Ms Campbell.
The text-based service SHOUT – which is available to anyone of any age with a mobile phone – has not yet seen a big uptake but they believe it is a vital service that will prove its worth.
“We know its difficult to find people over 16 so we have some social media campaigns and posters in gyms and GPs and we are always open to ideas of how to reach people,” said Ms Campbell.
Many of the digital services are particularly useful as they are available outwith “office hours”.
“We were aware that in Forth Valley when you get to 5pm, a lot of our services stopped and other than Accident and Emergency there wasn’t a lot there, so the digital support is important,” said Ms Campbell.
“We really wanted to make sure that across our services we have 24 hours a day covered!”
Their main focus now is to ensure that people know about the help that is available and graduate intern Christie McAlpine has been busy creating social media accounts to promote the services across as many channels as possible.
“A lot of our referrals come through family and friends so its about letting everybody know what’s available,” said Ms Campbell.
Anyone who would like to find out more about the services on offer or make a referral can do here