18th April 2021
The next instalment of our campaign blog series comes from Dr Kerri McPherson, a Health Psychologist and Head of Psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University. She explains why we must take immediate action to ensure our mental health system is accessible to all, and develop and support a workforce to deliver on this.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reignited conversations about mental health and the importance of looking after our wellbeing. We have been reminded to take time away from our desks, to get out into the fresh air for exercise, to keep in touch with friend and family, and to engage in self-care. And, yes, we absolutely should do all of these things. However, what these messages do is place the responsibility firmly in the hands of the individual; they mask critically important responsibilities. People cannot look after their own mental health if, for example, support services are inaccessible, if conversations about mental health are laden with stigma and judgement, and if requests for help are ignored.
SAMH’s manifesto and election campaign Standing Up for Scotland’s Mental Health is key in highlighting how we redress the balance here. We are reminded in SAMH’s manifesto that the promotion of positive mental health and support for mental ill-health requires a mental health system that is accessible to everyone.
I lead on research that investigates the barriers and facilitators to young people’s engagement with mental health services, and young people and their parents tell us that mental health is really important to them, and as important as their physical health. They want to stay mentally well, they want to have good conversations about mental health, and they want access to support early on, in environments where they feel safe and respected. But the experience of many young people is that mental health support is only available to people in crisis.
Moving forward, having a mental health system that is accessible to everyone should be more than an aspiration for Scotland, it should be a high priority. We need to see mental health support embedded in our communities, in our workplaces, and in our daily conversations.
SAMH is right to highlight that we cannot, we will not, meet the mental health needs of the Scottish population if we just keep doing what we have always done. We need to reimagine the support we provide and the ways we provide it. However, increasing the availability and accessibility of mental health support replies on us having a full capacity mental health workforce and, at the moment, we don’t.
At Glasgow Caledonian University we train psychologists to provide mental health and wellbeing support and our trainees and graduates are already working in local communities to promote positive mental health and wellbeing. This is a workforce for the future, a workforce that could deliver a reimagined mental health support system that promotes positive wellbeing, intervenes early to prevent mental ill-health, and provides critical care to those in need.
I’m glad we’re talking about this, but I want to see the conversation turned to real action for Scotland’s mental health this year, next year and into the future.
To learn more about Standing Up for Scotland’s Mental Health, and how you can join our campaign visit: samh.org.uk/standup