SAMH Centenary Reflections

18th December 2023

SAMH Chief Executive, Billy Watson, reflects on our centenary celebrations throughout 2023.

This has been an exciting year at SAMH – 2023 is our centenary, marking 100 years of being there for Scotland’s mental health.

When we were considering how best to acknowledge this significant milestone, we knew we wanted to use the moment to bring people together, to share our history, recognise our contributions over the years, but most importantly to be a catalyst to drive our ambitions for Scotland’s mental health.

We started our year in the historic Paisley Abbey, welcoming 100 of our colleagues and supporters to the home town of our pioneering founder Dr Kate Fraser. It was her determination and dedication to improving the conditions and treatment of people with mental health problems that was pivotal in the forming of the earliest SAMH in 1923.

A century later, we continue to keep Dr Kate’s vision alive across Scotland’s communities every single day.

We are committed to good mental health for all, and continue to work with others to create environments where everyone can thrive. Across our centenary year we assembled like-minded senior leaders and Scottish employers for our Business Leadership events, offering valuable perspectives on workplace mental health and wellbeing - an increasingly important part of our work.

“It was a superb evening.  The speakers were all excellent and the chat in the room afterwards was very focused and determined.”

 - Attendee at the Edinburgh Business Leadership Event

In learning about our origins, we discovered that in 1923 our aims included ‘to spread knowledge, foster wider understanding, to be an [expert]’. This aim remains true today.

We delivered our first public lecture series in Glasgow ‘on subjects with which the Association was concerned’ in 1927. As a direct nod to our past, this year we hosted two centenary public lectures on Suicide Prevention and Care and Support – key priorities for SAMH. Across our lectures we welcomed 160 people, alongside leading experts from across the UK to share the most recent research, findings and best practice, stimulating further thinking on the way forward as we continue to seek to bring about the changes needed.

“A superb event, excellent speakers and I really hope SAMH does more events like this. They have such a role to play in this space and education and awareness raising is so key. The ripple effect is huge when people share information through conversations.”

- Suicide Prevention lecture attendee

What makes SAMH special is its people. We have an incredible staff team who work tirelessly, bringing their determination and empathy, offering non-judgemental support to individuals and communities across Scotland. During the year we delivered a series of wellbeing festivals for colleagues, a chance for us to come together, celebrate and take time for our wellbeing.

Staff wellbeing days
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“It felt really special to be a part of this event and to also be a part of this wonderful organisation.”

Staff event attendee

We created other opportunities for people to get involved: from local service celebrations, to community jogscotland groups doing the Big 100 Challenge, to time with our ambassador, Sir Chris Hoy, and young people having the opportunity to ask the First Minister about young people’s mental health.

Throughout the year, we brought together more than 1,000 people to talk about improving Scotland’s mental health.

We have made great progress in the last 100 years but there is still much to do. With that in mind, we announced an important change at our Centenary Dinner at the wonderful Kelvingrove museum.

SAMH Centenary Reflections
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To mark our next chapter and to better reflect what we are here to do, our name has changed.  We are now SAMH, Scottish Action for Mental Health.  Changing one word may seem like a small difference.  To us, it is a fundamental statement of intent.  We want to do more than we have ever done to take action for Scotland’s mental health. We will innovate and evolve to be here for people who need us now, and for those who will need us in the years to come.  We are taking action, because action is what is needed for Scotland’s mental health today, tomorrow and in the future.