This week Nicola Sturgeon announced her new ministerial team and I am proud to have been appointed Minister for Mental Health.
This appointment makes Scotland the first and only country in the UK with a ministerial post dedicated wholly to mental health. This shows the importance this SNP government places on improving mental health services.
This week also marks Mental Health Awareness Week – a campaign dedicated to highlighting mental health issues. Mental illness is one of the most important public health issues in Scotland today, with around one in three people affected by mental health issues in a given year.
To date good progress has been made to improve mental health services. Since 2006 funding is up 40 per cent. The number of child psychology posts have doubled. And, we’ve recently announced £50 million to improve waiting times for treatment. But we are committed to doing so much more – and my appointment this week is just the beginning.
We have committed an additional £150 million to improve mental health services, and later this year we will be publishing a ten-year plan to transform mental health services across Scotland.
I want us to focus more on prevention and early intervention. That’s why we’ll deliver an “ask once, get help fast” approach by the end of this Parliament.
We will also look at new and innovative ways to deliver mental health services – beyond traditional health settings. For example, by bringing together healthcare and education we can ensure better treatment for our young people.
Improving primary care treatment is also a priority. Around 90 per cent of mental health problems are dealt with in primary care settings. Part our £150 million investment will be used to fund new ways of responding to mental health issues in and around GP surgeries.
At present too many people with mental health conditions face difficulty when seeking support from the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions. An SNP government will use new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to pursue a different approach – with dignity and respect at its heart. We will ensure mental health conditions and physical health conditions are treated with parity.
Big strides have been made, but there’s much still to do. Over this term of parliament we will transform the support available to people facing mental health issues.
– Maureen Watt is MSP for Aberdeenshire South & North Kincardine and Minister for Mental Health