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Responding to the mental health challenge of COVID-19: Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey

October 9, 2020 by No Comments | Category Health, mental health

Today is World Mental Health Day, and this year’s theme is ‘mental health for all’.

I doubt there is a single one of us who hasn’t thought about our own mental wellbeing, or worried about others, at some point during 2020.

We have all been through a lot, and the introduction of temporary measures now will also be really challenging for people across the country. And that means the importance of mental health and wellbeing has never been clearer.

It has been difficult enough to maintain good physical health during the pandemic and lockdown. But the experience will also have been immensely draining psychologically for many of us.

The effects could include feeling down, or anxious. People might have needed to be signposted to support. There might be increased levels of distress. There will also be cases of more serious mental illness.

Throughout this year, mental health has continued to be an absolute priority for this government, and we’ve invested £6 million of dedicated funding to support the whole population.

Our Transition and Recovery Plan for Mental Health, which I announced this week, reflects how fundamental this issue is. It is comprehensive, containing over a hundred actions, and focusses on the specific mental health needs of everyone across Scotland.

The plan places evidence and lived experience at its heart, and is has been developed in close collaboration with SAMH, the Mental Health Foundation, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Mental Welfare Commission, Unison, Penumbra, Samaritans, and many others.

As well as promoting good mental health and wellbeing, the plan prioritises rapid and easily accessible support for those in distress and ensures safe, effective treatment and care of people living with mental illness.

We want everyone across Scotland to remain engaged and informed about mental wellbeing. This includes the critical importance of reducing stigma.

We will build on innovations and new service designs that have emerged in response to the pandemic, such as the ‘Clear Your Head’ campaign, the expansion of digital services and the establishment of Mental Health Assessment Centres.

We have concentrated on how the pandemic might impact on employment. This includes people in uncertain employment, those who might have been made unemployed as a result of lockdown, and those who are currently trying to find a job.

We know that children and young people have been particularly affected, and we have laid out a range of actions to respond to the needs of our young citizens.

These cover emotional wellbeing, the support available in educational settings, and the route into specialist mental health services when those are needed.

We also recognise that older people have been just as impacted. So have those who are at higher risk, either through a long-term health condition, or a disability.

Many of them have been shielding, which has been exceptionally difficult. In all of these cases, we believe that further targeted action is needed to support good mental wellbeing.

We know how important specialist mental health services are – and they will continue to be so. So we have laid out our approach for the recovery and renewal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Psychological Therapies. This includes a programme of enhanced improvement support.

We will also work with NHS Boards to ensure they are able to respond to any increase in demand over the coming months.

The road to recovery will not be linear. And that is likely to mean different types of mental health need will emerge as time passes. This will be affected by the extent to which further targeted measures are needed.

Our response, as laid out in our plan, will be flexible and adaptable. It will continue to evolve over the short, medium and long term, and it will continue to be informed by the work of the Mental Health Research Advisory Group. Our ongoing use of evidence and data will be key.

Our Plan is comprehensive and ambitious. But it is the work we do now to deliver it that will really make the difference.

We will therefore continue to ensure our commitments will make a real, positive, lasting difference to people’s lives.

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey



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