Public mental health is the true measure of political success

27th Feb 2023
Influencing policies
Shari McDaid

Shari McDaid

Head of Policy and Public Affairs (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)

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As the SNP leadership contest gets underway, we urge all candidates hoping to become First Minister of Scotland to make public mental health a priority during the current cost-of-living crisis and throughout the current parliament.

There are clear links between financial strain, poverty, and poor mental health. The cost-of-living crisis is increasing the number of people experiencing financial strain. Polling in Scotland in November 2022 (carried out by Opinium on our behalf) indicated that 40% of adults had been anxious in the past month, 33% stressed and 13% hopeless because of their financial situation.

The same poll found that significant numbers of people worried about affording essential living costs in the coming months. More than half (52%) were worried about not being able to afford food, more than six in ten (65%) were worried about not being able to pay monthly household bills and more than four in ten (43%) were worried about not being able to pay their rent or mortgage.

In January, we published a report, ‘Mental health and the cost-of-living crisis: another pandemic in the making?’, setting out evidence-based recommendations for both the UK and Scottish governments to tackle the mental health effects of the cost-of-living crisis. We now urge those who seek to be the next First Minister of Scotland to prioritise the mental health and well-being of people in Scotland, prevent a rise in mental health problems, and commit to tackling the root causes of poor mental health, including poverty and inequality.

On their first day in office, the new First Minister of Scotland must be ready to take on the current public mental health emergency, inflamed by the cost-of-living crisis. This means redoubling efforts to mitigate the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis, preventing financial stress by increasing income support and advice, increasing funding to safeguard community organisations and facilities, and ensuring that frontline workers are trained and empowered in trauma-informed service delivery and can provide a compassionate response to people experiencing financial strain or poor mental health.

Similarly, people must be protected against the potentially devastating mental health impact of the cost-of-living crisis and cuts to public services.

As the old adage goes, 'your health is your wealth', so no potential leader can claim to have the strategy to deliver prosperity without ensuring that every government decision is assessed in terms of its impact on public mental health. There is no better measure to determine the success of a nation than the mental health and well-being of its people.


Notes to editors

Opinium carried out the poll of 1044 adults aged 18 and over in Scotland between 7 to 14 November 2022. Figures are weighted to be nationally representative of the population in Scotland.

For further information and interview requests, please [email protected] our press inbox. We have expert staff available for interviews.

About the Mental Health Foundation

  • the Mental Health Foundation has been the home of Mental Health Awareness Week since 2001
  • our vision is for 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 of poor mental health
  • the Mental Health Foundation is committed to promoting an anti-racist, inclusive community where we can all be ourselves
  • the Mental Health Foundation relies on voluntary donations to provide evidence-based advice and carry out vital work to prevent poor mental health

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Our policy and advocacy work calls on national and local government to reduce the factors known to pose a risk to people’s mental health, enhance those known to protect it and create the conditions needed for people to thrive.

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