VHS responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy. We also engaged with a government-run consultation event which we welcomed as it allowed for contributions to be heard from a broad spectrum of organisations and people. VHS has carried out two significant pieces of work recently which focused on mental health and wellbeing. These were the focus of out response:
Falling Off a Cliff at 65: Mental Health in Later Life
Since 2019 VHS has led an initiative involving Support in Mind Scotland, the Mental Health Welfare Commission and other third and public sector bodies, to gather evidence and raise awareness about what happens to people with serious mental health conditions, other than or alongside dementia, once they become 65. Issues we have explored include underdiagnosis, under-provision, poor transitions from ‘adult’ services to ‘older people’ services, discrimination and the ignoring of human rights. For some people with serious mental health issues, their 65th birthday feels like ‘falling off a cliff’ in terms of service provision. For example, on their 65th birthday some people with schizophrenia will lose all support from the community psychiatric nursing service.
The Zubairi Report: the lived experience of loneliness and social isolation in Scotland
This was a qualitative study which investigated the loneliness and social isolation experienced by under-represented demographics in Scotland, who often face multiple triggers including socio-economic disadvantage, poor access to transport and a lack of places and spaces that encourage connectedness and foster belonging. The primary research was conducted in 2018 with women from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, people living in a socio-economically deprived area, people living and working in rural communities, and paid and unpaid carers of people receiving palliative care.
Key Points from our response:
- Tackling inequalities should be central to the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy starting with under-diagnosis, under-provision, poor transitions from ‘adult’ services to ‘older people’ services, discrimination and flouting of human rights in mental health services.
- The third sector provides a multitude of support for people’s mental health and wellbeing, including advice services. However, third sector and community organisations need to be sufficiently resourced to keep up with the demand on services. This is a significant concern at present due to the likely spike in demand from the cost-of-living crisis, and potentially devastating increases in running costs facing the third sector.
- The Zubairi Report highlighted a strong correlation between loneliness and social isolation and social exclusion, including but not limited to poverty, lack of civic engagement, use of or access to services. Additionally, the obesogenic environment often more prevalent in areas of socio-economic deprivation can have a significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing.
- People do not want to be passive recipients of services, they want opportunities to engage in reciprocal activities that work towards a common goal and allow them to contribute to their communities. These are important in instilling a sense of purpose and belonging and strengthening social ties on an equal basis.
- When household budgets are squeezed one of the first things to suffer is often social interactions. This can damage people’s mental health and wellbeing as connections are lost and activities which would have been considered preventative are no longer affordable.
- Public services need to take a compassionate and understanding approach to people’s needs and lived experiences. Universal Credit often leads to vulnerable claimants living in fear of sanctions and rent arrears, which undoubtably causes significant stress and negative impacts on mental health.
- Carers are often at risk of social isolation and loneliness and disengaging with prevention activities due to their caring responsibilities and/or stretched budgets. This has an impact on their mental health and wellbeing and we believe underlines the need for monitoring the health inequalities facing carers.
- Too many older people with serious mental health conditions are denied their rights and access to appropriate services based on their age. There is a lack of joined up care for people suffering from a range of multimorbidities which can be the case for people as they age and experience physical and mental health issues. The focus of services and support for older adults tends to be on dementia and not on other forms of mental ill health which can be experienced for example, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder among others.
This consultation response is especially pertinent while the cost of living is soaring and households are being squeezed to breaking point. Instability in people’s welfare, housing and bills will have a detrimental impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Concerns about money, navigating the social security system and affording basic prevention based activities and social interactions were central to our response to this strategy. We know there is a strong link between social isolation, poverty and stigma. Poverty causes numerous challenges for people’s housing, food security, heating, education and work, which all impact our mental health.
Since the consultation closed we have heard from the Scottish Government that they received around 500 responses. They have therefore delayed the publication of the new strategy to Spring next year to allow ample opportunity to engage further on the important issues that have been raised.
Read our full response: Consultation Response Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy
For more information contact our Policy & Engagement Lead, Kimberley.