The Scottish Government has recently asked for people’s views on the next Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy for Scotland, a strategy for mental health that would be in place until 2027. The Government said that they wanted to hear about ‘mental health services and how to prevent poor mental health in Scotland’. They want ‘high quality mental health support to be available for everyone that needs it’.
A group of CAPS participants and volunteers called Lothian Voices recently submitted their views to the Government.
There were many voices included in the response that CAPS sent, which is available in full here.
Much of the discussion around the key areas of focus for the strategy surrounded the practicalities of the world that we are living in. We see funding and resources often being reduced. The cost of living crisis means that accessing many services has become harder. When looking to the things that negatively impact on mental health, there was a universal feeling that money worries were are at the top of these. A number of things were suggested as having positive impacts on mental health. These included safe housing and socialising.
People made connections between mental health and other areas of their lives, in particular housing and benefits came up as a concern. They also mentioned the resources available to services themselves.
“Time! Needing to work full time to pay bills – basic survival leaves no time to be able to pursue things that positively impact my mental health.”
“There should be more in priorities about cooperation between services, particularly the benefits systems….there is a real need to work more closely with services to avoid people being excluded for example for drug and alcohol, learning disabilities and neurodiversity.”
“Access to benefits that you are entitled to – not having to go through lengthy stigmatising processes to get them.” [In answer to what would the vision of the strategy look like]
“Access to healthy, affordable housing.” [In answer to what would the vision of the strategy look like]
“A priority for good mental health and wellbeing needs to be that everybody has the right to GOOD quality housing, food and shelter.”
“MONEY!! – The cost of living crisis.” [In answer to a question about what stopped people being able to do the things that have positive impacts on their mental health].
“A positive thing for the strategy to support would be businesses to implement more flexible working options, like the four day week and support schemes like universal basic income as these all affect mental wellbeing.”
“Better benefits assessment process for people with Mental Health problems.”
“It’s not budgeting that’s the problem – there is just not enough money. Every service you access for help pretty much audits you and suggest where you could cut down…there is nothing left to cut!”
“Agree that providing accessible signposting to help, advice and support is important but investment in services PROVIDING help, advice and support is needed first.”
Importance of having a voice
People responding to the consultation said that people with lived experience of mental health issues should be involved in decision making. They also said that being seen, valued and listened to were incredibly important for a positive experience with a mental health service. The priorities that had the most support from the group were that people should be involved in the decisions that affect their health, treatment and lives.
“Advocacy is really important and must be available.”
“People who have mental health issues are really aware of how these [proposed areas of focus] could be achieved and could be helpful with these messages they need to included more.”
“It will be important that decisions on conditions for good mental health and wellbeing come from people with their own lived experience.”
“It is also important that the strategy provides opportunities for people to express if the system worked for me!”
“People need to feel that they will be believed.”
“Working with you – valuing your lived experience and giving you a say over your own treatment.”
Ease of access
There was also concern around the ease of accessing services:
“Digital exclusion – everything moved online during the pandemic and for people
unable to access things in this way it has made it harder.”
“Access to libraries is getting harder, reduced mobile library facilities lately is challenging for people with access needs.”
“Geography – rural areas or poor public transport links to things you would like to be involved in.”
“Services being shut down or only there for limited time, when you find something that works it is frustrating when local or national priorities change and things are closed or restricted to fit new priorities that you had no involvement in setting!”
“Opportunities for connecting – it is hard if you don’t even know what’s available.”
The group also brainstormed ideas about how mental health services can improve. They made clear, practical suggestions of ways to counteract the things that make experiences negative. There are so many parts of the system where human interaction, language and attitude are what make the difference between a good experience and a bad one. The group wanted to point out how these things can be considered in services. The group had lots more to say on this and many other aspects not covered in this article – please read the full report!