Mental health and wellbeing strategy

Strategy laying out our approach to improving mental health for everyone in Scotland.

2. Joint foreword

From Scottish Government and COSLA

As we publish this new Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy for Scotland, it feels like time to take stock and reset our approach.

There is no doubt that the challenges we have all faced in recent years mean people across the country think differently about mental health. We haven't all been affected in the same way, but we have all been affected in some way. Coming through the most difficult of times, we all have a heightened understanding that there is no health without mental health. We have asked people closest to us whether they're okay. More of us will have felt able to ask this question – or answer it – without feeling judgement or stigma. And increasingly, more people have known it was the right time to come forward and ask for help for their mental health.

We know that mental health does not just mean mental illness; it is a continuum that may include a range of needs, from having the right words to describe how we feel, through to everyday worries and feelings of distress or hopelessness. We must ensure that the right help is always available to those who experience severe and enduring mental health conditions and provide the wider support people may need to maintain good mental health.

We also recognise that underlying factors, inequalities and types of disadvantage affect certain groups of people who may suffer disproportionate impacts on their mental health. We must learn from evolving evidence about intersectionality by recognising that people are multi-faceted and that different experiences or aspects of their identity can interact and combine to affect their mental health in ways that are not the case for everyone.

We now think of mental health as a cross-government priority, building on the partnership between the Scottish and Local Governments. This means that we recognise a huge range of things that can contribute to whether we are mentally healthy or not, including poverty, employment, housing, our communities and many more.

In publishing this Strategy, we acknowledge that all areas of Government will need to work together to achieve our shared vision and to make progress towards our outcomes, which are outlined later. Our vision is of a Scotland, free from stigma and inequality, where everyone fulfils their right to achieve the best mental health and wellbeing possible.

That means that this Strategy is for everyone.

Central to this is what people have told us during 18 months of preparation and consultation. We received a huge range of feedback from the public, people with lived experience, representative groups, and other organisations. Some particular issues raised include:

  • A need for a stronger focus on prevention and early intervention.
  • The importance of tackling poverty and inequality.
  • Supporting person-centred and whole family approaches.
  • Placing mental health and wellbeing on an equal footing with physical health.
  • A need for increased community-based support and services.
  • Increased and longer-term funding for mental health and wellbeing services, including for the third sector.
  • Growing the workforce – developing a skilled and diverse mental health and wellbeing workforce which can operate at safe levels, and addressing talent attraction, recruitment and retention challenges.

To deliver the changes we want to see, we will need to encourage collaboration from a wide range of partners across Scotland. This will include putting the voices of lived experience at the heart of implementing the Strategy. It will require working in partnership with our colleagues in Health Boards, Integration Joint Boards, and Health and Social Care Partnerships. It will mean moving forward in lockstep with the third sector.

Perhaps most importantly of all, it will require the right workforce.

Having the right workforce in place is fundamental to achieving the Strategy's ambitions – and we are not starting from scratch. We acknowledge and value the contribution of the workforce in providing high-quality mental health and wellbeing support, care and treatment. A considerable amount has already been done to provide the right mental health care and support in the right place at the right time. We will be better informed and resourced to continue to make a difference for people, to challenge and shift our attitudes, and to continuously expand and improve our approaches to support mental health and wellbeing.

Finally, to show how this Strategy is making a real difference to people's lives, we will set out the outcomes we wish to achieve so we can be held to account for our progress. Our Delivery Plan and Workforce Action Plan will detail the work we will take forward to progress these outcomes. This will require local and national leadership as we collectively work towards key national outcomes whilst maintaining local flexibility. We will robustly review, monitor and evaluate the Strategy, the accompanying Delivery Plan and the Workforce Action Plan to ensure we are committed to the right actions.

Ultimately, we want this Strategy to serve as a blueprint for what a high-functioning whole mental health system looks like. The Delivery Plan and Workforce Action Plan will set out how we will begin to get there.

Maree Todd MSP

Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport

Councillor Paul Kelly

COSLA Spokesperson for Health and Social Care



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