ACCESS to public transport is a “barrier” to receiving mental health help in rural Scotland, a study has found.

Hundreds of people from countryside communities from Galloway to Stornoway and Berwick to Lerwick responded to a survey on mental ill health from Support in Mind Scotland and Scotland’s Rural College.

Most were female, aged 45-54 and in paid work or government training.

Loading article content

Almost 70 per cent of respondents reported depression, 30 per cent were suffering from anxiety and 20 per cent had suicidal thoughts.

Most said public transport was an obstacle to accessing the care needed to manage their condition, something the report said led to a “layering of isolation factors”. Those self-reporting suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviour were said to be hardest hit, with three times as many people in this group citing transport as a problem.

Participants called for services to be “close to the place of need” and to include mobile services and outreach, particularly on the islands, to reduce the “significant stress” of travelling to and from appointments.

The study also found connections with people in the community can play a key role in helping to overcome stigma, isolation and remoteness.

Jim Hume, manager of the Forum for Support in Mind Scotland, said: “The research findings from the rural mental health survey now give us the evidence to help us tackle mental ill health in rural Scotland.

“We know that one in four Scots suffer mental ill health at some point in their lives, and now we know that tackling mental ill health in rural Scotland has its own challenges.

“Mental ill health can be more difficult to tackle in remoter parts of Scotland, due to isolation, transport issues and stigma.”

The new National Rural Mental Health Forum aims to boost community connections and Hume said the body is “in a unique position to help rural communities tackle mental ill health through the outreach of the rural organisation members of the forum, the expertise of mental health organisation members and this groundbreaking research”.

He went on: “Mental ill health can be prevented and can be treated, especially with early intervention. The forum and its members are keen to take action by raising awareness in rural communities and normalising talking about mental ill health.”

Meanwhile, experts from Seoul National University of Medicine in South Korea believe they have the first evidence of a significant link between being underweight and depression.

Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the team analysed data from 183 separate studies.

They said women are more likely to be affected, stating: “It seems that the current ideal of thinness affects women more than their male counterparts and causes more psychological distress in women, which can, in turn, lead to depression.”

They concluded: “Both underweight and obesity increase the risk of depression.

“In clinical practice, medical care providers should pay attention to the mental health of people who are underweight.”

Dr Agnes Ayton, vice-chairman of the eating disorders faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “This large study confirms that optimal nutrition is fundamentally important for physical and mental health.

“It is an important finding, as people with eating disorders often assume that losing weight will improve their happiness. This study shows that the opposite is true and malnutrition has a detrimental effect on people’s mood.”