Boosting mental health at heart of new public health priorities

Tackling mental health issues is a priority. Picture: John Devlin
Tackling mental health issues is a priority. Picture: John Devlin
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Tackling suicide, reducing harm from drugs and ­alcohol, improving diet and doing more exercise have been put at the heart of Scotland’s new public health priorities ­strategy.

Improving mental health was another key element of the priorities published yesterday by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla). The priorities have been drawn up to stimulate action across the public sector, voluntary sector and communities to turn round Scotland’s poor health record.

Campaigners welcomed the focus on boosting mental well-being in Scotland, but said much more had to be done to deal with the issue.

Improving a mental health record that saw 728 deaths by suicide in 2016 will be central to the initiative unveiled by public health minister Aileen Campbell and Cosla health and social care spokesman Peter Johnston.

Measures include action to reduce stigma associated with mental ill health, to improve support in the workplace, build more resilient communities and to tackle the inequalities in mental health.

Data suggests that adults in the most deprived areas are five times more likely to have below average well-being.

The strategy will also look at reducing drug, tobacco and alcohol use, all of which are strongly linked to mental health problems.

Other initiatives include providing local wellbeing services and peer support networks, providing access to the creative arts, environmental projects and employment and training chances.

A key strand will be on helping young people as more than three-quarters of mental health problems have their onset before the age of 20. Building personal resilience and social networks during childhood and adolescence are recognised are seen as key to preventing mental health problems.

Toni Giugliano, policy manager at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “We welcome the recognition from the Scottish Government that mental health must be at the heart of any public health strategy. But this must be matched by action.

“We’ve made our position clear that we need a new national body with teeth and resource that can drive forward suicide prevention work.

“Scotland doesn’t need a talking shop on suicide prevention – it needs a fully resourced and staffed body that can provide strategic direction to local delivery groups, co-ordinate national campaigns, roll-out training to key staff across sectors and commission a full independent evaluation of the strategy.”