We listen to people with mental health problems and help them bring about change in Scotland and across the UK.
We work to create change in four main policy areas:
- Access to Services, Support and Treatment
- Work and Finances
- Promoting Good Mental Health
Access to Services, Support and Treatment
People experiencing a mental health problem may at some point need support, treatment or a service. We believe you should be able to ask once and get help fast.
But often that’s not the case. We’re campaigning to make access to psychological therapies (also known as talking therapies) faster and more effective. Read more about our work on psychological therapies.
Three-quarters of people say their GP would be their first port of call if they needed help with their mental health. And one in three GP appointments involve mental health. That’s why SAMH worked with the Royal College of GPs to survey Scotland’s general practitioners.
We found they were concerned that they couldn’t always get fast access to good services for patients with mental health problems, sometimes saw lengthy waiting times, and experienced a lack of up to date information on local services.
Many people find medication helps them deal with a mental health problem. But you should be fully involved in decisions about taking medication, and for some conditions, you should be offered a psychological therapy or other approach first. That isn’t always the case. What’s more, some medicines for mental health problems can cause severe side effects that aren’t always taken seriously. Read more about our work on medication.
Suicide can affect anyone. In 2015, there were 672 deaths by suicide across Scotland. We have made good progress on suicide prevention recently, with an 18% reduction in suicides over ten years. But Scotland's suicide rate is still higher than the UK average. Men are more likely than women to die by suicide, and men in deprived areas are particularly at risk. We want councils to keep funding local suicide prevention co-ordinators, and we want the Scottish Government to introduce better crisis services.
Work and finances
In most circumstances, good work – that is, work over which you have some control, in a workplace where you are treated with respect – is good for your mental health. But sometimes, a mental health problem means that you can’t work – either for a short period or, in some cases, forever. We believe people with mental health problems should be able to access employability services that help them find, keep or progress in a job, as well as a benefits system that provides a decent income in a dignified way.
People with mental health problems have the highest unemployment rate of any group of disabled people. But the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) approach that SAMH uses helps more people with mental health problems into work than any other employment programmes, at no greater cost. We are calling for the Scottish Government to roll this out as part of its new employability scheme. Read more about our work on employability.
Mental health problems are the most common reason for claiming disability benefits in the UK. We are campaigning for the UK Government to revamp its discredited tests for Employment and Support Allowance, and for the Scottish Government to put mental health at the heart of its plans for replacing Personal Independence Payment.
We support the Rights for Life Declaration for Change. People with mental health problems too often face stigma and discrimination. That’s why we are a proud managing partner of See Me.
People with mental health problems can be detained and treated without their consent. That’s why we work hard to make laws and processes about detention and involuntary treatment fairer and easier to understand. We campaigned successfully to have the role of default named persons abolished, since this gave people a say in decisions about someone’s compulsory treatment even if that person hadn’t given their permission. And we’ve campaigned for many other changes in the law, too.
Promoting Good Mental Health
Mental health is one of the main factors that influence how happy we are. And our own research demonstrates that the social and economic cost of mental health problems is £10.7 billion. So there are good reasons why public policy should aim to improve mental health. We want the Scottish Government to make sure all areas of policy, from housing and employment to education and business, are designed to make our mental health better.
Sport and physical activity is one of the most effective routes to better mental health. And you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete like our ambassador Sir Chris Hoy. Simple things like going for a short walk regularly can really benefit your mental health.