IT CAN take considerable courage to open up on a mental health diagnosis. No matter if it is friends and family, or anyone and everyone, any disclosure is a difficult choice to make.

For those who tend to be in the public eye, the mental strength needed will be extraordinary, especially if there is a lack of awareness around the condition.

But, in a bid to improve support for people identified with the disorder as adults, a Wee County councillor has opened up on his ADHD diagnosis.

Tullibody's Cllr Darren Lee told the Advertiser how he was diagnosed with high-functioning attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) a few months ago, but quickly found there is a lack of support for adults across NHS Forth Valley.

The councillor explained how he was diagnosed in a private setting where he was already seeking help, but such practices are unable to provide medication on prescription.

He was referred to his GP following the diagnosis, only to be told “there's nothing we can do”.

Cllr Lee told the Advertiser: “I've been diagnosed with ADHD and ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and, originally, I was told to go and speak to my GP, get medication.

“I tried to do that, but was told 'there's nothing we can do' so I reached out to other people in the area and I found that they also suffer from the same, they don't get help.

“We've got a lot of people in the Forth Valley area in particular with nowhere to turn with their condition, which can obviously leave them feeling burnt-out, suicidal and depressed – a risk to themselves and potentially others because they are not getting medication. They need CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to keep them grounded.”

The councillor and Wee County resident explained how having to seek help privately can costs hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, but waiting lists are forcing many people to do so.

“I'm in a bind," he continued. "I've looked into all the options and you are talking well over £1,000 to get a consultation and potentially access to the medication you need to live a normal life.

“A lot of people can't afford that and they are going without access to the support.”

NHS Forth Valley told the Advertiser that specialist mental health services are available, to help and support “any individual who experiences serious issues as a result of a mental health condition, including adults with ADHD”.

A spokesperson added: “This includes people who may be able to leave their home due to anxiety or who are at risk of serious harm due to their mental health issues.”

Cllr Lee is calling for more resources, but also more understanding in wider society.

Speaking about his diagnosis, he made clear: “It doesn't define me, doesn't hold me back. Ignorant people are ignorant anyway.

“It would maybe be good for people to see that it doesn't hold people back.”

The representative has spoken to a handful of people who are in a similar situation and has found “there seems to be a general consensus that there's no support for those diagnosed in [adult] life".

He added: "There seems to be a big focus on children – rightly so, but I don't see why there can't be a common overlap between the two."

Cllr Lee's story is not unique, according to Geraldine Mynors, a founder of the Scottish ADHD Coalition.

She told the Advertiser: “A very typical situation at the moment is that, because NHS waiting lists are years long, and in fact some health board areas don't have an adult service for ADHD, people are going private, but then the NHS is refusing to pick up the cost of the ADHD medication.

“It varies very much between individual GP practices but many of them won't prescribe on the say-so of a private psychiatrist, which is completely wrong, because the only reason they are going private is because they cannot get an NHS service.”

Geraldine confirmed it can cost hundreds of pounds each month to pay for medication, which is only one treatment option, and the process to get diagnosed can “easily be up to £1,000”.

On the issue of medication, NHS Forth Valley explained that certain amphetamine-based products can be used to treat people.

A spokesperson added: “However, these are very powerful and can have serious side effects.

“For this reason, individuals who receive a diagnosis of ADHD may not always be prescribed medication as the risks can outweigh the potential benefits, especially for those with milder symptoms.”

On the other hand, the ADHD Coalition's Geraldine explained how people may look for alternatives when they are unable to access prescriptions.

She said: “One of the most frustrating things is that many people with ADHD or undiagnosed ADHD end up on anti-depressants or they end up with an alcohol or drug problem because they are trying to self-medicate to alleviate their ADHD symptoms.

“If you can get people onto proper ADHD medication then often times they come off anti-depressants and they are much more likely to even come off non-prescribed drugs.”

The Forth Valley health board explained how guidelines are being developed for services.

A spokesperson said: “Clinicians from NHS Forth Valley have been involved in developing new national guidelines for Adult ADHD which we hope will be published over the next year.

“Alongside the new national guidelines, a number of ADHD resources are also being developed to help individuals improve their concentration and focus.

“These will be made available to GPs and the general public as soon as they are finalised.”

Alexander Stewart MSP added his support for Cllr Lee.

He said: “To go public like this regarding such a complex and little-understood condition by many is a brave thing for anyone to do, but for someone in the public eye with such a high-profile position within the Council; this is courageous in the extreme.

"I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Darren since before his running for council the first time during the previous term and have nothing but admiration not only for his professionalism, work ethic and dedication to the wellbeing of the communities in his Ward, but for Darren personally, as a focused and dedicated family man.

"This goes to highlight in the bigger picture that we are all human beings at the end of the day and many of us have something to deal with throughout our lives, even when we are at the receiving end of the more blunt aspect of politics. So for Darren to air his ADHD so eloquently in this manner only goes to reinforce his courage & resolve and I highly commend him for this and for all the work that he does locally.”