Standing Up for Scotland’s Mental Health

11th February 2021

Ahead of this year’s Scottish Parliament elections, we’ve launched our manifesto, Standing Up for Scotland’s Mental Health, calling for radical action in order to combat a growing mental health crisis in Scotland.  

Informed by over 2,500 people across Scotland, many of whom have lived experience of mental health problems, our new manifesto sets out 38 actions to make mental health a national priority.  

We want to see real change, as part of this we want to see redoubled efforts on suicide prevention, action now to support children and young people and rapid access to psychological wellbeing support for adults. 

In the last twelve months, Scotland has seen its population’s mental health and the mental health systems designed to support it challenged like never before. With these pressures likely to continue well into the next parliamentary term, it makes the current picture on mental health even more concerning:

  • One in five children referred to specialist mental health services are still being turned away
  • A quarter of those referred for psychological therapies wait at least four months to be seen
  • Deaths by suicide have risen over the last two years.

It’s clear that mental health must become a real national priority following the May elections. 

Billy Watson, Chief Executive at SAMH said,

“Scotland’s mental health deserves better. A growing number of people across the country are facing mental health problems and are struggling to access help. There have been too many promises on mental health and not enough action. With the added pressure brought about by the pandemic, we need a radical new plan.

“We must now, more than ever, see political and government commitment to make mental health a priority. That’s why today SAMH is launching our manifesto, urging the next Scottish Government to put the mental health of the nation first. It’s time to listen to the hopes, fears and needs of people with mental health problems.

“The next Scottish Parliament will see many new MSPs, as well as experienced members returning for a further term. We hope we can rely on each and every one of them to Stand up for Scotland’s Mental Health.”

The Standing Up to Scotland’s Mental Health manifesto reflects the real life experiences of people across Scotland. Stephanie, 19, struggled to access the support she needed through CAMHS. She said,

“After being put on the waiting list for CAMHS, it was many months before I was contacted and learnt that I’d have to go through a whole process to actually be seen. Eventually I ended up being rejected as I was on holiday when the letter came in about arranging my first appointment. There was a deadline that you had to get in contact by to arrange this but because I was away I ended up missing it. I got in touch but the only support and advice they could give was for me to go through the full ordeal again.

“I felt helpless and had no idea what I was supposed to do. I was reaching out which is what they said to do, but I was still being shut down. I was terrified and I didn’t know what was going on. I was thinking, ‘What if I don’t get the help, what will happen to me? Will things get worse?’ - It felt like a really big ball of emotions. The whole referral process just felt exhausting. It took a further toll on my mental health and how I dealt with it in the future, and I became closed off once again.” 

The research and experiences which lie at the heart of our new manifesto shows that when people are given the support they need quickly, they can flourish. 

After a suicide attempt, Robert, 39, reached out for support. This led him to ‘The Changing Room’, a SAMH project which uses the power of football to get men in their middle years talking about mental health. 

Robert said,

“Early on I remember thinking I’m worth my place in this group, not only is it helping me feel better but I’m going to be part of making other people in this group feel better. I felt like I was worth a lot, and for a long time I didn’t feel like I was worth much. 

“Local community support is so important because shared experiences help, having someone you can relate to from a similar background makes it much more organic.”

“Many people feel isolated when they are having suicidal thoughts, I had family all around me, but I still felt isolated, because no one knew what was going on, so then being around people who understand what you’re going through can really make a big difference.”

To find out more about Standing Up for Scotland’s Mental Health, to read our full manifesto and find out how you can help drive real change for mental health, visit