100 Years of SAMH

A century on, we’re still here for people, when and where they need us. 

100 years of pioneers

SAMH traces its roots back to 1923 and the pioneering work of Dr Kate Fraser CBE, from Paisley. At a time when women were expected to remain in the home and mentally ill people were routinely shut away in workhouses or prisons, often beside criminals, Dr Fraser’s dedication to using her medical experience to improve the conditions and treatment of people with mental health problems was truly inspirational and formed the earliest iteration of SAMH. 

We’ve been pioneering change ever since. 

100 years of community

Since the beginning, SAMH has championed community-based services as the backbone of mental health and wellbeing support. It was even enshrined as one of our original aims: To improve the mental health of the community and take all possible action in connection therewith. This goal has been part of our DNA since we led the formation of local Care Committees in the early 1920s, and many of our current services focus on supporting people living with mental health problems towards recovery and engagement in the wider community.  

Our very first service, Sprout Market Garden, was an Edinburgh-based horticultural project launched in 1983 to help people with mental health problems connect with the community and gain work experience. Today, we still run thriving horticultural projects and services everywhere from schools to sports clubs, allowing us to place mental wellbeing at the heart of communities across Scotland.  

In the digital age, we are present in our virtual communities too. Our Time for You service, for instance, offers online wellbeing support service for anyone over 16 in Scotland experiencing mild to moderate emotional or mental health difficulties. 

100 years of supporting people into work

SAMH has been supporting people with mental health problems into work since the 1920s, when we helped train young people and provided specialist support at employment centres.  

A century on, our employment teams are actively helping people into meaningful employment, from job applications and CV building through to interview preparations and in-work support. Initiatives such as the Individual Placement Service, which also has a young person’s branch dedicated to supporting 16 to 24-year-olds, and Employ-Able, which works with armed forces veterans in partnership with Poppyscotland, support job seekers on a one-to-one basis to find something suited to their needs, interests and aspirations. We are also working directly with employers to help them create mentally health workplaces. Our Workplace team is a trusted partner to over 70 organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors.

100 years of listening 

We understand the strength it takes to ask for help. So we don’t judge. We care and we listen. Our services are person-centred and based on an ethos of recovery. Listening to, and learning from, people living with mental health problems is at the heart of what we do, from shaping our services to guiding our campaigns and policy work.  

Listening is a core component of each of our services, where we encourage open, meaningful discussions about mental health, supporting people in the settings where they feel most comfortable. The Changing Room, for instance, is a 12-week peer support group hosted at football ground across the country, where we bring men together for a blether about more than just football. 

You can hear more about how we are supporting people across Scotland in our SAMH Stories.

100 years of campaigning

SAMH has a long history of campaigning for change - advocating for people’s rights, holding government and others to account to ensure commitments are delivered, and ensuring people living with mental health problems remain at the centre of what we need to achieve. In early days, Dr Fraser petitioned for people with mental health conditions to be included in the Disabled Person's Employment Act (1958), and the campaigning arm of SAMH remains at the forefront of our activities today. 

SAMH achieved substantial changes to the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 2015 through intensive lobbying to ensure that, among other things, a family member or carer did not become a named person by default, which could have worked against the wishes of the person being treated. We were also instrumental in the development of the Scottish Social Security System, securing the right for people living with mental health problems to be assessed by someone with professional expertise in mental health, an amendment passed in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018.  

For some time now, we have been at the forefront of shaping successive national strategies on both mental health and suicide prevention. Achievements include delivering the ALBA (Active Living Becomes Achievable) programme, which supported adults with a mental health problem to better wellbeing by helping to increasing their levels of physical activity, and hosting the National Suicide Prevention: Lived Experience Panel on behalf of the Scottish Government. 

100 years of influence 

At SAMH we will always strive to end the stigma and discrimination that can surround mental health, whether that’s in schools, society or the workplace. That’s why, together with the Mental Health Foundation, we manage See Me, Scotland's national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, and respectme, Scotland’s anti-bullying service.  

Over many years, the charity has also influenced public agendas as part of our commitment to suicide prevention, most recently demonstrated in our Ask Them About Suicide campaign, and our work relating to physical activity and sport, which aims to ensure everyone can experience the benefits that physical activity can bring to our mental health and wellbeing.

100 years of partnership

A century on, SAMH keeps Dr Fraser’s vision alive across Scotland’s communities every single day. But as Constance P H Hunter, then Secretary of SAMH, said in 1937: “Mental health is not the task of one profession or section of the community.” Progress is only possible with the support of others allied to the mental health cause, and we extend heartfelt thanks to our ambassador, supporters, partners and collaborators who, like us, are passionate about changing things for the better for those who need help with their mental health. 

A recent UK-wide partnership with Co-op saw the supermarket’s customers and colleagues raise £1.6 million put to use in Scotland, unlocking SAMH’s ability to establish 16 community resilience services, training individuals to directly support those in need in their local areas.  And through our national partnership with sportscotland, we’ve upskilled almost 800 coaches and others in the sports community with our How to Have a Mental Health Conversation training.

100 years of ambition

‘No doubt to many of us [progress] appears to be slow, but that is due in part to the ambitious nature of our work’ - 1928 Chairman, Rt Hon Lord Murray. 

From the very start, our ambition has been bold. The strides we as a society have made since those early days are impressive, but we recognise there is so much more left to do. And when change doesn’t come quickly enough, We Won’t Wait. Our centenary strategy, created at a time of mental health crisis in Scotland, aims to help people access support at the first time of asking, encourage open conversations around mental health and support more employers to build brilliant, safe places to work.  

We are stepping up, so that SAMH can reach everyone who needs us. If you would like to get involved, please join us and make this the year to do something for Scotland’s mental health. Together, we can achieve even more. 

100 years of SAMH
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Action for the next 100 years

We marked the end of our centenary year by refreshing our brand and unveiling a new name: SAMH, Scottish Action for Mental Health. This small but important change, from Scottish Association for Mental Health, better reflects our work, which includes delivering services directly in the heart of Scotland’s communities and campaigning for policy change at a national level.  

Following a wide-ranging review that spoke to staff, supporters, and people who use SAMH services, we will retain our original acronym because people know and trust SAMH.  

The rebrand was unveiled on Saturday 4 November at a special centenary dinner, hosted by broadcaster and musician Dougie Vipond, where guests gathered to celebrate 100 years of supporting Scotland’s mental health.   

Billy Watson, Chief Executive of SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health), said: “This has been a historic year for us. Our centenary is drawing to a close, but we want to build on the momentum we have generated this year to have an even greater impact as we look ahead to the next 100 years.  

“The evolution of our name and brand is a big part of this, encompassing all the things that people love about the SAMH brand with some modern twists. As Scottish Action for Mental Health, we will be ready to continue supporting and campaigning for the people of Scotland.”