The next Scottish Government is being urged to put mental health “first” amid concerns about the scale of self-harming.
Official figures show 8,901 incidents were reported across NHS regions covering Grampian, Highland, Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles.
The total has increased in some areas. The impact of severe restrictions on freedom and normal life during the pandemic added to fears services will struggle to cope with demand.
The SNP, hoping to be re-elected to government in May, noted “immense” strain on services is being addressed with “record” funding in the NHS.
Liberal Democrats, who drew attention to the regional figures, said the scale is “devastating”.
Urgent action needed
Molly Nolan, Lib Dem candidate in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said: “The danger and uncertainty of the pandemic has left many people feeling anxious and isolated. Mental health has suffered as a result.
“Such a staggering number of incidents of self-harm is devastating. Urgent action is needed to prevent a mental health tidal wave prompted by the pandemic.
“Clearly not enough is being done to help those in need. We simply have to put the recovery and mental health services first. The alternative could risk lives.
“The next Scottish Government must launch an urgent review of the Mental Health Strategy and ensure local communities are properly supported out of this crisis, including services that young people can access with their families.”
Last month, an investigation by the BBC found hospital admissions among nine to 12-year-olds because of self-harm were averaging 10 a week in the UK as a whole. The rate has doubled in six years, the analysis suggested.
It led to calls from doctors and teachers for more help to spot signs of young people who might be hurting themselves.
The regional figures on self-harm show the total increased in Grampian from 1,143 in 2016-17 to 1,268 last year.
In Highland, the total has increased from 418 to 529 while in the Western Isles it grew from 51 to 67.
Shetland recorded 60 in 2016-17, rising to 92. The figures in Orkney increased from 35 to 46 in the same period.
Figures from 2020-21 are incomplete. Across all boards, there were 2,020 incidents reported in 2019-20 and 1,467 by the first eight months of this financial year.
A spokesman for the SNP said: “During the past year there has been an immense strain on our mental health and on our mental health services.
“It will be vital for our recovery out of lockdown that we have robust mental services and the SNP has recognised that by committing a record £16bn to the health budget, which includes an overall investment of £1.1bn in mental health overall the SNP manifesto will set out further plans to improve the nation’s mental health and support those who need it.”
Scottish Labour announced their election proposal on March 29 for a mental health worker in every GP practice as part of the recovery from the pandemic.
The Scottish Greens manifesto will include proposals to allocate 10% of frontline health spend to mental health by 2026.
Scottish Conservatives have proposed re-opening the Mulberry Unit at Stracathro as part of a mental health package.
Scottish mental health support group SAMH says people are known to self-harm as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, old memories, or overwhelming situations and experiences. The group can be accessed at www.samh.org.uk