Boost­ing men­tal health at heart of new pub­lic health pri­or­i­ties

● Vol­un­tary sec­tor and com­mu­ni­ties urged to help turn around health record

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By TOM PETERKIN

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 well­be­ing 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.”

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