BOTHY BOOK BLOG: Supporting Mental Health and Wellbeing in Communities Across Scotland

Posted on 26 January 2022

It is more important than ever to look after our mental health and wellbeing, given the global effect of the pandemic in the last two years. With news of the new Omicron variant and its impact, it is vital that mental health and wellbeing continues to be our priority. However, we recognise that mental health does not just start at a clinical, crisis intervention point. Our environment, our communities, and our previous life experiences also affect it, and we can act early to help. That is why the Scottish Government prioritises prevention and early intervention, alongside improving clinical services, when it comes to improving mental health and wellbeing.

We hugely value the views and experiences of people with living experience of using mental health services, and of their families and carers. These views are crucial to the work we do. The Lived Experience Panel on suicide prevention has provided invaluable perspective and experience to the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group’s work in recent years. This has ensured that the decision makers hear the voice of those with lived experience of suicide. We are building further opportunities for this kind of positive participation into our wider work on mental health including through the development of a national lived experience panel.

Venture Trust is carrying out brilliant work with a focus on addressing inequality, through their work to help people who face barriers to access employment and to support those who have been in contact with the criminal justice system. The Scottish Government continues to learn from them and the wide range of charities we work with.

Our Mental Health Transition & Recovery Plan, developed with partners and third sector representatives, sets out the actions we are taking to address the additional pressures on people’s mental health, brought about by the pandemic, and is focused on:

  • Promoting and supporting the conditions for good mental health and wellbeing at population level
  • Providing accessible signposting to help, advice and support
  • Providing a rapid and easily accessible response to those in distress
  • Ensuring safe, effective treatment and care of people living with mental illness

This work is supported by a £120 million Recovery and Renewal Fund which will transform services, with a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention.

We support and greatly appreciate the valuable work that community groups and organisations do to support the mental health and wellbeing of our communities and we have allocated £15 million to grassroots community groups via a new Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults. This funding reflects the importance we place on promoting good mental health and early intervention for those in distress and will help develop a culture of mental wellbeing and prevention within local communities.

The Fund aims to support grassroots, community based initiatives across Scotland to tackle the impact of social isolation, loneliness and the mental health inequalities made worse by the pandemic.  Projects could involve working with a range of ‘at risk’ groups such as women, those with a long term health condition or disability, those facing severe and multiple disadvantage, those who are or have been on the highest risk (previously shielding) list, refugees or LGBTI communities.

Applications are still open in many areas, and are being handled locally by Third Sector Interfaces across Scotland.

It has never been more important to look after our mental health. I want to ensure that people are able to think about their mental health alongside their physical health and that they have the information and support to be able to do that. I want us all to work together across our communities in Scotland to look out for each other in these challenging and uncertain times. Organisations like The Venture Trust have an important role in supporting this.

Kevin Stewart was appointed Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care in May 2021.

Kevin has served in the Scottish Parliament as the member for Aberdeen Central since 2011. He was the Convener of the Local Government and Regeneration Committee in the last Parliament and sat on the Welfare Reform and Justice Sub-Committee on Policing. He was previously the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning.

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