Blog | Why are local elections important for Scotland’s mental health?

4th May 2022

It can often appear as if all the big decisions are made in Holyrood or Westminster, but it is surprising just how much power local authorities have to improve the day-to-day quality of our lives and support the mental health of everyone.

It is true that the Scottish Government will set budgets, policies and guidance. However, how a local authority chooses to allocate money is up to them. When it comes to mental health, spending can be direct and used for things like services, but there is also indirect spending that can impact our mental health and wellbeing.

Indirect spending on mental health can include things like leisure facilities and green spaces that get us moving and in nature - helping us all maintain our wellbeing. It can also be on transport, making sure that people can attend important appointments or get to services in a quick and affordable way. Indirect spending can also cover housing, employability and debt advice, which all play a part in helping people feel supported.

Direct spending on mental health may include councillors in schools and mental health training for school staff. Or it could be working with the NHS and other organisations to make sure there is an adequate suicide prevention plan in place, and engaging with those with lived experience and at-risk groups. Direct spending can also cover specially trained social workers, called Mental Health Officers, who work with people in communities who may need to be involuntarily detained, making sure their rights are respected.

SAMH is asking candidates to stand up for Scotland’s mental health and the people in their local area by committing to the following six actions:

  • Ensure everyone has access to person-centred support in their community
  • Expand non-clinical support available for children and young people
  • Prioritise suicide prevention and improve support for people in distress or crisis
  • Ensure the rights of people receiving compulsory treatment for their mental health
  • Improve access to physical activity for people with mental health problems
  • Increase mental health training opportunities available locally

SAMH would also like those who care about mental health to go out and vote and engage with their local authority on these issues once the elections are over.