Time is now for transformational approach to mental health to prevent upsurge in mental distress in Scotland


Read about what the Mental Health Foundation Scotland are calling for in their manifesto.

  • Survey reveals Scots lack confidence in access to mental health support  

  • Mental Health Foundation Scotland proposes Wellbeing Budget and Mental Health Guarantee to prevent post-COVID mental health crisis 

Mental Health Foundation Scotland is calling for an urgent transformation in the nation’s approach to mental health with a critical shift to population-wide prevention measures.  

Launching its manifesto A Wellbeing Society:  Delivering Good Mental Health for All, the Foundation is urging Scotland’s political parties to do more to prevent the root causes of poor mental health in the wake of COVID-19.    

The 14-point manifesto sets out the actions the next Scottish Government can take to deliver a Wellbeing Society that addresses both the risk factors for poor mental health (such as poverty) and supports those people who experience distress.  

A YouGov survey of 1,024 Scottish adults, commissioned by the charity, today reveals that only 15 per cent are satisfied with current measures to reduce poverty in Scotland.  

In a bid to also relieve long waiting lists for stretched-beyond-capacity mental health services, the Foundation is proposing a ‘Mental Health Guarantee’ to ensure that people with mild to moderate mental health problems are referred within six weeks to appropriate community support. The plea comes as the survey also revealed that 51 per cent of Scots are not confident, they would receive quick access to mental health support if they went to their GP for help.   

Less than half of Scots (48%) said they are likely to seek professional help for their mental health.  However, more than two thirds (68%) said they would be likely to seek professional help for a mild to moderate health problem if there was a guarantee they would get access to appropriate and timely support.  

Lee Knifton, Director of Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “The next Scottish Government could face a huge upsurge in people seeking mental health support following the pandemic with social isolation, trauma, bereavement and financial challenges all increasing the risk of poor mental health.   

“A significant number of Scots have said they’re not confident they’d receive quick access or the right support from their GP if needed, and they are right to be concerned given many services are already overwhelmed by demand. 

“We can’t just treat our way out of the approaching crisis.  The time is now for a transformational approach to mental health in Scotland which is why we’re calling for urgent action to create a Wellbeing Society. Mental health problems can be prevented if all Scotland’s political parties and decision makers get behind the prevention agenda and tackle the root causes of poor mental health.  Addressing the cause rather than the symptoms of mental ill-health will reduce prevalence of mental distress, improve overall wellbeing, tackle stigma and save lives.” 

The Foundation wants all parties to commit to following New Zealand’s example and publishing Scotland’s first Wellbeing Budget with radical measures to end poverty, prevent a COVID-19 unemployment crisis and put wellbeing at the heart of its budgetary decision-making process.    

While this will help overcome the societal causes of mental ill health, the Mental Health Guarantee will also ensure that people needing help for problems such as anxiety or depression will be quickly referred to community programmes such as social prescribing, exercise referral schemes, local groups and peer support, or talking therapies like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).  The move would reduce the number of people reaching crisis point, ease pressure on clinical mental health services, and increase the range of options open to GPs.   

Lee added: “In the last year the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the existing cracks within our approach to mental health.  We entered the pandemic completely unprepared for the mental health fallout, but we can learn lessons with a concerted effort to safeguard our wellbeing, strengthen social safety nets and nurture environments that allow people to thrive now, post-Covid and beyond.”   

Read more information on Mental Health Foundation Scotland’s recommendations and the manifesto.


For further information and interview requests please contact Claire Fleming at Mental Health Foundation Scotland on email [email protected] or phone 07511 076870. 

Notes to editors  

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1024 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd - 4th March 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scotland adults (aged 18+). 

Notable survey findings: 

  • Over half of Scots (51%) were not confident in being able to get access to quick support for mental health if needed from their GP. A similar proportion (47%) were not confident that they would get access to the right support from their GP 

  • Less than half of Scots (48%) said they are likely to seek professional help for their mental health.   

  • Of the people who said they are not likely to seek professional help for their mental health 

    • One fifth of people (21%) have tried to get help before and were disappointed with the response.  

    • A fifth (21%) of people don’t know how to talk about it 

    • More than one in ten (13%) are too embarrassed and the same proportion (13%) do not want a mental health problem on their record 

  • More than two thirds (68%) said they would be likely to seek professional help for a mild to moderate health problem if there was a guarantee they would get access to appropriate and timely support.  

  • Only 15% of Scottish adults are satisfied with the measures to reduce poverty in Scotland  

  • Only 23% of Scottish adults are satisfied with measures to support people experiencing financial strain 

Summary of Recommendations from ‘A Wellbeing Society: Delivering Good Mental Health for All  

  1. The next Scottish Government should embed Mental Health Education (MHE) within the Curriculum for Excellence, giving every pupil the tools to protect and improve their mental health and tackle stigma. 
  2. Every child at risk of poverty, exclusion or adversity should benefit from an evidence-based mentoring programme based on the “one good adult” model, helping every child to succeed regardless of their circumstances.
  3. A new Health and Wellbeing Fund should be established to help Head Teachers invest in pupil wellbeing in the aftermath of Covid-19. The fund will aim to reduce prevalence of emotional distress through evidence-based peer-to-peer programmes, youth work and family support initiatives.
  4. Investment in providing parents and primary caregivers with the confidence to support their children during key stages of their child’s development should be significantly expanded. 
  5. To meet rising demand and tackle waiting lists the next Scottish Government should deliver transformational investment in community mental health through a rapid expansion of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Social Prescribing, Exercise Referral Schemes and Peer Support. 
  6. The next Scottish Government should pilot a “Mental Health Guarantee” for people with mild to moderate mental health problems where person-centred support will be offered within six weeks. 
  7. Within two years the next Scottish Government should publish its first Wellbeing Budget with radical measures to end poverty and prevent a COVID-19 unemployment crisis. 
  8. A Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill should be introduced to provide not only the ambition, but a statutory duty on all public bodies to improve social, cultural, environmental and economic wellbeing. 
  9. A Future of Work Commission should be established to help ensure that post-pandemic labour practices support mental wellbeing. The Commission should explore the benefits of a four-day working week to wellbeing and introduce measures to reduce job insecurity. 
  10. Everyone in Scotland should have the right to a safe, warm and affordable home. The Scottish Government should build 50,000 new social homes to address Scotland’s chronic housing shortage and to reduce homelessness. 
  11. In response to a rising suicide rate, the next Scottish Government should double suicide prevention spending and introduce a ten-year public health driven action plan, backed by £20 million. 
  12. A national support service for families bereaved by suicide should be rolled out upon completion of existing pilots so that those bereaved receive the timely support they need. 
  13. The next Scottish Government should introduce a Community Recovery Fund for the next four years, building on the £350 million announced in September 2020, to empower communities to recover from the pandemic, including initiatives that tackle social isolation.
  14. A Green Spaces Strategy should be introduced to guarantee safe and accessible green spaces for all to transform Scotland’s relationship with the outdoors and improve health outcomes. 

About the Mental Health Foundation   

   Our vision is of good mental health for all.   

  • The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems.   

  • We drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk.   

  • The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week.