Mental Health

Our next blog looks to respond to some of your feedback around mental health and wellbeing.  To do this, Jenny Simons, from the Scottish Government’s mental health team, answers some of our questions.

Firstly, here is a flavour of some of the main issues raised so far:

  • You told us about the importance of reducing the stigma around mental health, about ensuring that there is more support for mental health, and that it is treated as equally to physical health.
  • There should be more investment in education about wellbeing and mental health, particularly in the early stages of live.
  • The connections between healthiness and happiness. There should be a greater focus on prevention, and more emphasis on wellbeing rather than ill health.

Q – It is estimated that a third of the population are affected by mental health disorders every year. However, feedback is telling us that there is still stigma around speaking about mental health issues.  What is the Scottish Government doing to help address this important issue?

JS Delivering the very best mental health services is a priority for the Scottish Government.  Over the last decade we have seen a considerable rise in the awareness of mental illness, but there is still much more to be done.  We are now looking to build on this process through the development of a new mental health strategy for Scotland.

Using the feedback received through the conversation will help us to inform our priorities for the strategy. We’re really excited that mental health is being talked about so much in the Healthier Scotland conversation: something is shifting on stigma and openness. We’re also working on continuing the mental health aspects of the Healthier Scotland conversation with 3rd sector organisations, service users and clinicians as part of work on the next Mental Health Strategy.

The First Minister has also announced over £54m spending to improve access to mental health services, and increase awareness, over the next four years.

Q – How will the new strategy and additional funding be used to benefit the people of Scotland?

 JS – These additional resources will be used to ensure that people are seen more quickly and efficiently.  For example, demand for specialist mental health services is increasing and many people come to primary care services also, for help with mental health problems.  Working with colleagues across primary care services, we aim to develop new models of supporting people with mental health problems. This includes the involvement of peer workers.

As we’ve seen through the feedback so far, there needs to be more balance between mental and physical healthcare. This is a priority within the new strategy, and one that we want to work closely with our partners to address.

Q – We know the NHS has been working hard to ensure access to treatment for mental health issues. What other work are you doing on this?

JS – Yes, as well as additional funding to improve mental health services and help to further reduce mental health waiting times, we’re also working on advocacy and rights when people receive treatment.

The 2015 Mental Health Act will strengthen patients’ rights in a number of ways. It ensures that service users only have a Named Person – someone who can help a service user represent their interests – where they choose to. This avoids the possibility of sensitive information being shared where the service user would not wish that to be done. Advance statements are a really important tool for service users to set out how they want to be treated. The 2015 Act makes sure service users can be confident that if they make one and give it to their doctor, it will be kept with their medical records and the people treating them will know it exists. It will also help make sure service users know where to go to get help with making an advance statement. Separately, the Scottish Government will be reviewing whether those with learning disability, autism and dementia should be included within the scope of the mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.

Q – Can you tell us about some existing good practise examples across Scotland?

JS – Scotland is playing a leading role in addressing mental health stigma through the work of See Me.  See Me is Scotland’s national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.  It has established a reputation as internationally ground-breaking in its scope, ambition and delivery.  It has put the issue of mental health stigma firmly within the public arena and is working to challenge stigma and discrimination at its roots – wherever people experience it – at work, through health and social care, in education, at home or in local communities across Scotland

The Scottish Government and Comic Relief fund See Me to support the work they are doing to challenge stigma and enable people who experience mental health problems to live fulfilled lives.

In March 2016 See Me is hosting the next meeting of Global Anti-Stigma Alliance in Glasgow, to be followed by a one-day conference on Thursday 17 March 2016.  This event will provide an opportunity to showcase a wide range of the work of being undertaken within Scotland as well as internationally in relation to addressing mental health stigma.

Q – So, how can members of the public get more involved or find out more information about services that available to them?

JS – Mental health services are provided at various points in the community as well as through formal services provided by the Local Authority and Health services.  Local events and support to engage in developing services are usually available through local libraries, GP’s and health centres and community information points.

Online NHS Inform provides information and sources of advice and support, through organisations including Breathing Space and Living Life to help you to improve your mental health and wellbeing.  In addition ALISS (A Local Information System for Scotland) delivered by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland provides information on health and wellbeing resources in Scotland and helps signpost people to useful community support.

For those looking to get directly involved there are a range of options:

With mental health campaigner Chris McCulloch Young, See Me have created Walk a Mile in My Shoes – Walk a Mile brings together professionals, carers and people with lived experience, people who may normally stigmatise each other, to walk together, to get to know each other and walk a mile in each other’s shoes.  Organised walks are held across Scotland with the next one taking place in Glasgow on 20 April (see picture below).

And also offer funding and support for Change Networks, groups who set up at a local level to share ideas to help improve the lives of people who experience mental health stigma and discrimination.

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