Improving mental health and treating mental illness are two of our major challenges. We are not unique in facing these challenges and in Scotland we have had much success in promoting rights and recovery, addressing stigma and improving service outcomes. More people are receiving effective treatment and they receive it more quickly than ever before. Increasingly, people have a good understanding of their own mental health and are prepared to talk about things when things are not good. People come from around the world to learn from us.
We are rightly proud of what we have collectively achieved. But though Scotland does well, there is more work to do. This Strategy sets out our objectives for the period to 2015.
Key challenges are to continue the good work that has already been started to deliver on our commitments to offer faster access to specialist mental health services for young people and faster access to psychological therapies. These targets are world-leading in setting expectations for access to mental health services. They demonstrate how, in Scotland, we truly give mental health parity with other health services in what we do as well as in what we say. We have also made good progress on reducing suicide in challenging conditions and must build on that success.
In the coming period, we are making key commitments that demonstrate our desire to increase the pace of change. We will focus on reducing variation in the availability of good quality mental health services such as intensive home treatment and first episode psychosis services. We will build on the prevention agenda, with a greater focus on the first years of life. We will target key connections between mental health and other policy areas such as employment, justice and early years services, where mental health has a large contribution to make.
While these commitments are valuable and necessary, our ambition is greater. We must take a step into the future and think beyond how services are currently structured and delivered.
People are already taking greater responsibility for their own health through lifestyle changes designed to produce better health outcomes. They are more likely to seek information for themselves to understand their own mental health and wellbeing and have a greater desire to control how they access help and support. Self-help, self-referral, self-directed, self-management and peer-to-peer are all concepts that will only grow in importance and which demand a different mindset and approach to service design. The system of the future must develop to embrace and adopt these approaches alongside the more traditional approaches to service delivery, which will also continue to be necessary.
We have learnt how to make improvement by developing a shared understanding of the goal that is to be achieved, using data to understand what is happening at national and local level, identifying early gains to create momentum and confidence, building in improvement support to share and develop learning and putting in place a clear performance and accountability framework. We are able to say when things are working well, but also have the confidence to say when things must be improved.
We have confidence that these are changes that we can make and that when we review progress in 2015 we will evidence a further step forward. Though circumstances are challenging we are ambitious for improvement. We already have a strong consensus in place about the mental health outcomes that we want to achieve and a firm partnership in place between national and local government, other national organisations, the voluntary sector and most importantly with service users and carers. This Strategy is focused on key changes and improvements, but it will be adapted to respond to new challenges as they emerge between now and 2015.
I commend this Strategy to you and ask that you work with us to take forward the commitments set out in it.
Michael Matheson MSP
Minister for Public Health