profile pic retouchBy James Calder

This week is Mental Health Awareness week, and I think those involved in Scottish Politics should take time to reflect on this as we go forward with the new Parliament. With us now having a minority Government, this gives us an excellent opportunity as a country to have a cross-party consensus on how to move forward and ensure that Scotland has the best possible mental healthcare.

Many people that I care about have suffered from mental health issues, and these are incredibly common for the population as a whole.  Mental Health issuer could have affected yourself and almost certainly someone you know. There are a few key facts we must be aware of when looking into Mental Healthcare:

  • 1 in 4 of us will suffer from a mental health problem this year
  • An average of two people each day in Scotland die by suicide
  • Half of adults who are mentally ill experienced the onset of their problems by the age of 15
  • 79% with severe and enduring mental health problems are not in work

(Source: SAMH Scottish Manifesto for the Scottish Parliamentary Election 2016 – link)

These are startling statistics but unfortunately they do not surprise me. We as a society have not done enough yet to ensure mental healthcare is at a standard that is fit for purpose and all too often there is a stigma attached.

Fortunately there seems to be some green shoots for the future. One of the things I was happiest about from a political point of view is how prominent mental health has been in shaping Liberal Democrat health policy on both sides of the border. Willie Rennie has taken a particularly strong stand and I was proud to stand as a candidate with a manifesto that looked to ensure mental healthcare is given parity with physical healthcare

Indeed I have noticed that across the political spectrum, not just in the Lib Dems but with other parties as well, there is increased awareness as well as support for action to improve mental healthcare. This should be welcomed, it can only be a good thing if more is done at Holyrood to improve on Scotland’s mental health record.

Now there is a minority Government, consensus is now key again in Holyrood. Now is the time to work together on an issue that matters to so many of us. We may share our differences between the Lib Dems and SNP (as well as with the other Parties), but this should be an issue to unite us all. Willie Rennie and the Scottish Lib Dem Team must keep fighting for mental healthcare to be given the support it needs and he is in an excellent opportunity to do so.

My message to everyone in the Scottish Parliament, not just to the Scottish Liberal Democrats is this: Let’s do something that has a positive impact on the lives of so many. Let’s make Scotland have the best Mental Healthcare.

James Calder is the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats Convenor and stood as a Candidate at the Holyrood Election