World Mental Health Day: Mental Health Foundation announces £2 million programme to support people worst hit by pandemic 

This World Mental Health Day (10 October 2021) the Mental Health Foundation is unveiling £500,000 investment for projects in Scotland as part of its £2 million UK-wide Covid Response Programme to support the mental health of people hardest hit by the pandemic, according to research.

  • Programme includes over £500,000 for projects in Scotland
  • Theme of World Mental Health Day (10 October 2021) is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’

This World Mental Health Day, (10 October 2021), the Mental Health Foundation is unveiling £500,000 investment for projects in Scotland as part of its £2 million UK-wide Covid Response Programme to support the mental health of people hardest hit by the pandemic, according to research.

In partnership with organisations and charities across the UK, the Covid Response Programme will help deliver practical mental health support to people whose experience of inequalities before and during the pandemic has left them most in need of support as the pandemic continues and, hopefully, passes.

In Scotland, people who are living with long term health conditions will be supported by the Living Well: Emotional Support Matters project; a joint venture from the Mental Health Foundation in Scotland and the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland. Each organisation is contributing £250,000 to support eight charities which work with people across Scotland who are living with long term health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, MS, and arthritis.

Julie Cameron, Associate Director at Mental Health Foundation in Scotland, said: “Our £2 million UK-wide Covid Response Programme, which includes over £500,000 in Scotland, is designed to alleviate some of the negative mental health impacts of the pandemic among the groups of people who have been hit hardest. However, we and our colleagues across the charity sector cannot solve these problems on our own. We welcome the ambitions set out in the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government to reduce inequalities and create a Scotland where all can flourish. We encourage continued investment to improve wellbeing, and achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Good mental health should be a desired outcome in all policy decisions from education and health to transport and justice, with a recognition that the people least likely to enjoy good mental health are those who face the greatest challenges and inequalities in life.

“We also urge the UK Government to think again in the run-up to the Spending Review announcements at the end of the month, and to prevent further inequality by reinstating the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit. Financial insecurity, poverty and debt pose significant risks to people’s mental health, and the evidence is clear that withdrawing the uplift will increase family and child poverty and mental distress. Quite apart from the human cost to those affected, it is surely a false economy to increase levels of poor mental health at a time when mental health needs are already greater than the support and services available to respond to them.”

The Mental Health Foundation’s ongoing study of the mental health impacts of the pandemic in Scotland has consistently shown that some groups have been particularly hard hit. People within these groups, including people living with long term health conditions, are significantly more likely than the general Scottish population to say they feel anxious, lonely or hopeless because of the pandemic and to say they have not coped well with the stress of the situation.

In the most recent survey* as part of the study, when asked ‘overall, how anxious are you about the current lifting of restrictions?’, 66 per cent of people living with a long-term health condition said they were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ anxious. This compares to 50 per cent of all Scottish adults.  The survey was done online between 6 - 13 September, among 2,020 people living in Scotland aged 18 and over.  

  For the Living Well: Emotional Support Matters project, the Mental Health Foundation in Scotland and the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland is working with charity partners: SISG Enterprises Ltd, The Braveheart Association, Versus Arthritis, Diabetes Scotland, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, Waverley Care, Clan Cancer Support and MS Mid Argyll.

The organisations will be supported to deliver tailored, mental health support which may include a mixture of practical training, group sessions and individual advice and counselling.  As well as benefits for the individuals participating, the charities will be supported to increase their capacity to offer mental health support to the people they work with. 

In the next two years, it is hoped that hundreds of people living with a long-term health condition in Scotland will receive person-centred mental health support that recognises the additional challenges, anxiety and stress that physical health conditions can cause.

Professor Ian Welsh OBE, Chief Executive of Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland: “It has long been known that living with long term conditions can, and often does, have a serious impact on people’s emotional health and wellbeing. This has been further exacerbated during the pandemic as people have experienced disruption in healthcare supports, increased isolation, and felt significant concerns for both themselves and loved ones.”

 “As we learn to live with and recover from COVID-19 supporting the mental and emotional wellbeing of people living with long term conditions must be prioritised.”

 “Recognising this necessity, we are pleased to be working with eight partner organisations on Living Well: Emotional Support Matters, as part of our wider self-management investment, to contribute to the creation of a Scotland where people living with long term conditions can thrive physically, mentally and emotionally.”

Across the UK, the Covid Response Programme will be supporting people from the groups who have been hit hardest by the pandemic, according to research. This includes people who are living with long term health conditions, people who are lone parents, people from Black and minority ethnic communities, people with Long Covid, and people who are refugees.

The Foundation is committing at least £1 million of its charitable funds to its Covid Response Programme, with a further £1 million being provided by key partners including the Monday Charitable Trust, the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, the Welsh Government, MumsAid, The Motherhood Group, Single Parents Wellbeing and Betsi Cadwaldr University Health Board in north Wales.

In addition to the Living Well: Emotional Support Matters project in Scotland, other projects include:

Long Covid, Wales: The Long Covid project aims to improve wellbeing, reduce social isolation and prevent mental ill health in individuals living with Long Covid. The 2-year peer support project will support people who have already attended the six-week Expert Patient Programme, provided by Betsi Cadwaldr University Health Board in North Wales, and will then build on that support over a sustained period of time to effectively equip people to self-manage their condition, with the help of peer support from others experiencing the effects of Long Covid. 

Young Mums Connect, England: Young Mums Connect is a three-year programme in Nottingham and Greenwich, south-east London, that builds on previous work to support young vulnerable mothers and their children. This programme, led by the Foundation, is delivered in partnership with Nottingham City Council, MumsAid, and The Motherhood Group. Young Mums Connect offers peer support to improve mental health, bringing young mothers and their babies together in weekly creative activities and group discussions. Weekly activities provide information about mental health, parenting and advice to help build young mothers’ confidence to deal with their future. Alongside peer support, Young Mums Connect will provide learning opportunities for health and social care teams across England, increasing the capacity to respond to the unique needs and experiences of young, vulnerable mothers. 

Connecting Creatively: Single Parents Wellbeing, Wales: Connecting Creatively offers a safe space for single parents and their children by encouraging creativity, positive parenting, and through building a peer support network.

In doing this we hope to enhance the mental health and wellbeing of single parents, to improve connections and strengthens the relationships between parent and their children. Ultimately the project aims to promote wellbeing and build resilience which will have a long-term positive impact on the lives of the families involved.

*Total sample size in September 2021 was 2,020 Scottish adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6-13th September 2021. The survey was carried out online by Panelbase. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+).

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Notes to editors

The Monday Charitable Trust: Through its grant making, the charity primarily supports: hospices; young people with the provision of life skills and/or improving social mobility; mental health; members or former members of the armed forces; people transitioning from rough sleeping.

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. For further information visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk

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