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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Agenda: Points of Order, Portfolio Question Time, Chronic Pain Services, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Community Resilience (Mental Health Support), Correction


Contents


Community Resilience (Mental Health Support)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-06215, in the name of Bill Kidd, on the Co-op, Scottish Association for Mental Health, Mind and Inspire “Together Through Tough Times” report.

The debate will be concluded without any question being put. I invite any members who wish to participate to press their request-to-speak buttons now or as soon as possible.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the SAMH, Mind, Inspire and Co-op report, Together Through Tough Times; notes that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers surveyed 4,500 people and conducted qualitative research with two demographic groups from four regions of the UK, including Yoker in the Glasgow Anniesland constituency; further notes that this research investigated communities experiencing higher than expected wellbeing outcomes, particularly in areas with high deprivation, to look at how communities can strengthen an individual’s mental wellbeing and what makes a community resilient; recognises the findings that three protective factors build resilience, which are talking about mental wellbeing, the existence of community hubs where people can access informal support, and the development of strong and collaborative community and voluntary sectors, where people can build lasting friendships; supports the Co-op’s fundraising efforts, which reached £8 million from its colleagues, customers and members, and which will fund SAMH, Mind and Inspire to deliver mental health support in 50 local communities, reaching an estimated 10,000 people, and commends the work of all charities and local groups across Scotland that are helping strengthen community resilience.

17:16  

Bill Kidd (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)

I thank all my colleagues who are joining me for this important debate on mental health, resilience and community. The idea for the debate was sparked by the joint report from the Co-operative Group, SAMH, Mind and Inspire on mental health and community resilience during the pandemic, which is entitled “Together Through Tough Times”. The report was championed by Jude Deacons and Sarah Greene from SAMH, who liaised with the Co-op and saw the idea for the report become a reality.

The report looked at two different social demographic groups situated across four areas in the United Kingdom. The first group that it surveyed was young people aged 16 to 24 and the second group was people who had recently been bereaved. Through the lens of a mental health and wellbeing analysis, the “Together Through Tough Times” researchers compared four areas in the UK, including Yoker in my constituency. Those four areas shared various social outcomes and all had higher than expected levels of wellbeing in their communities, despite high levels of deprivation.

In those areas, people tend to face social difficulties such as higher rates of poverty, crime and unemployment. We know from SAMH’s work that there are strong links between poverty and depression, and yet despite that, the four areas all experienced strong community resilience and good mental wellbeing. The researchers sought to find out what characteristics those areas shared and what made the people living in those areas, many of whom were facing significant pressures in life, continue to thrive. The answer was community and belonging.

Whether it is a pandemic, bereavement, moving to a new town or city or a breakdown in family relationships or friendships, we can all face times when our community and sense of belonging are taken away from us and our mental health suffers as a result. It is often in those moments that we need support the most, and that is when so many have found crucial mental health support and community in SAMH.

The universal need for community and belonging is why we are all in the chamber today, debating the “Together Through Tough Times” report. Specifically, the report found that community hubs and collaborative voluntary sector options to provide informal and formal mental health support, belonging and identity are the building blocks of resilience.

Something that was clear to all MSPs throughout the pandemic was the vital role of community groups and charities in getting people through those incredibly isolating years. I will highlight a few local community groups and organisations that are based in Anniesland and have done fantastic work locally, especially during the pandemic. DRC Generations has, notably, supported families who are already connected with the organisation through extremely difficult circumstances, including bereavement and the tragedy of suicide. It has provided real community to affected families during the darkest of times.

Men Matter Scotland is another local group that is doing incredible work to support men who may have struggled with low levels of mental health, depression and suicidal thoughts. Based in Anniesland, it has created a peer support network that does exactly what the “Together Through Tough Times” report talks about by providing informal support and creating space for long-lasting friendships to be forged.

SAMH has published statistics on the rates of suicide in Scotland since the start of 2020; it found that men are three times more likely to commit suicide. That issue needs to be taken seriously, and peer support networks such as Men Matter Scotland and the SAMH wellbeing programmes are vital. As the sayings go,

“a brother is born for a time of adversity”,

and

“A friend loves at all times”.

Brotherhood is essential, especially in the face of those statistics. We cannot underestimate the power of friendship and of having someone to talk to.

There are so many national and local charities that do that fantastic work. Another charity that springs to mind is Safe Families, which brings support and hope to families that are facing acute difficulties. I am sure that my colleagues on all sides of the chamber will mention other examples of community action. The “Together Through Tough Times” report reinforces the message that community increases our resilience and capacity to weather periods of crisis and isolation. Community hubs create the opportunity for intervention with people who could otherwise develop poor mental health.

I was pleased to host SAMH’s evening reception in the Scottish Parliament last night. We heard some tremendous stories of people overcoming significant mental health challenges as a result of receiving mental health support from SAMH. They included Theresa, who had not felt able to leave her house for 30 years. When she started going to SAMH’s wellbeing support cafe, she was welcomed with smiles and met genuine friends, and she felt capable and able to keep coming back. She is taking strides in overcoming that issue, and has seen her confidence increase and made many friends along the way. She is now inspiring so many others to reach out for support.

SAMH’s work, and the work of local community organisations, is transforming lives. What is so great about the “Together Through Tough Times” report is that the findings are being implemented. The Co-op, with its members and customers, raised the sum of £8 million, and that money is now going to SAMH, Mind and Inspire to implement targeted and effective mental health provisions.

We all have mental health, and it is important to know how to look after ourselves and reach out for support when we need it. I encourage all those in the chamber, and others who are listening, to consider old friends whom they have not heard from in a while, and to check in to see how they are doing; to be hospitable and invite people over; and to be generous and help their friends or community in some way, whether by giving their time, gifts or simply a listening ear. It could be a small act of helping a friend, such as building furniture or helping with do-it-yourself around the house or in the garden. Those may sound like simple examples, but that is the beauty of it. Helping someone, even yourself, can be the simple step of picking up the phone or going along to a community event that you have heard about. We are designed for community and real friendships where we help to carry each other’s burdens. No one is an exception to that, and no one should ever feel alone.

17:23  

Sue Webber (Lothian) (Con)

I genuinely thank Bill Kidd for bringing the debate to the chamber to celebrate the partnership between the Co-op, SAMH, Mind and Inspire. In 2021, the Co-op and its charity partners published the “Together Through Tough Times” report, which identified the characteristics of resilient communities, highlighting how that strengthens mental health and how to promote and encourage community resilience. The Co-op went on to deliver an amazing fundraising effort for its charity partners, raising £8 million, which will fund SAMH, Mind and Inspire to deliver mental health support in 50 local communities, reaching an estimated 10,000 people across Scotland.

If people did not know how to donate to that appeal, all they had to do was use their Co-op card. Every time they bought something, having signed up to the partnership online, every penny that they spent in the Co-op contributed to the charity fundraising effort.

In October, I was invited to attend a recognition event that SAMH hosted at its Redhall walled garden in south-west Edinburgh, to thank Co-op colleagues for all the work that they have done through the national charity partnership, from fundraising to supporting and promoting their local SAMH Co-op-funded projects. The local SAMH Co-op-funded project in Edinburgh is the community link work service for children and young people who have been referred to child and adolescent mental health services but have not been taken on.

The SAMH Redhall walled garden project works to improve mental health and wellbeing through gardening and a variety of outdoor tasks. The team offers a supportive environment for learning skills in information technology and horticulture, being more active, spending time in nature and working alongside others for specialist support. While I was there—they let me take Alfie along—I met one of the workers who is involved specifically in doing outreach work in schools, and I heard about how valuable that has been. I was pleased to learn that some of the high schools in my area, including Currie community high school and Balerno high school, are involved in that work. It was a really fascinating visit, and I learned a lot about that specific SAMH project. The orchard, and all the growing that is going on there, is quite something, and it was a very beautiful and relaxing environment to be in, which is key to mental health.

There are a lot of other super initiatives across Edinburgh. Yesterday, I met Support in Mind Scotland, which runs a super service in Edinburgh called the Stafford centre, down on Broughton Street. The centre has been supporting people in Edinburgh and surrounding areas with their mental health for more than 30 years. It is a community resource for people who are experiencing mental ill health, with the aim of helping them to manage their mental health, gain greater self-confidence and become more integrated in their community.

The centre offers counselling, welfare rights advice, a veterans community cafe, a carer support project, support for men who are experiencing traumatic stress disorder and group activities. What is key is that it is a self-referral service: people do not need to go to a general practitioner to access that support.

The “Together Through Tough Times” report recognises that protective factors are those that build resilience, such as talking about mental wellbeing; the existence of community hubs such as the Stafford centre where people can access informal support; and the development of strong and collaborative community and voluntary sector networks in which people can build lasting friendships.

Volunteering is key to that, as I know, through sport and all sorts of other initiatives in which people can take part. The Stafford centre is a fantastic example of how communities can strengthen an individual’s mental wellbeing and make a community far more resilient in tackling and managing poor mental health. We know—we are not going to hide away from this—that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a very negative impact on the mental health of our population and, perhaps, of many of us in the chamber too.

Although the pandemic has raised public awareness and increased the number of conversations about mental illness that are taking place, we all recognise that there is still a lot of work to be done. The services and opportunities that charities such as SAMH, Support in Mind, Inspire and Mind provide are vital, and I thank all of the members in the chamber for taking the time to speak on the subject today.

17:28  

Stephanie Callaghan (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

I thank Bill Kidd for bringing this important debate to the chamber, and for supporting the fantastic event that was led by SAMH last night. I, too, give a special shout-out to last night’s powerful speakers, Linda and Theresa, who expressed brilliantly how SAMH has helped them to achieve dreams that had previously seemed to be way out of their reach. I did not envy my colleague Kevin Stewart, who had to follow Linda’s speech, but he gave it his best, anyway.

It is getting darker and colder, the cost of living is biting and the news is full of doom and gloom, so it has never been more vital that we discuss mental health openly in the chamber. Times are tough and we face significant challenges, but identifying opportunities to build resilient, vibrant and connected communities in Scotland matters now more than ever before.

The “Together Through Tough Times” report found that more than two in every 10 Scots describe their current mental health as poor. For 16 to 24-year-olds, that figure rises to just under one in three, which is really scary.

We also know that the pandemic led to one person in four feeling isolated from their communities, and that 36 per cent of people feel that they lack support or the tools to cope with stress, pressure and difficult circumstances. With that in mind, perhaps we could all make a point of checking in tonight with someone who might be struggling—a colleague, a friend or a family member—because taking the time to ask how they are can make a really big difference, as the report says.

At its heart, the SAMH and Co-op report confirms that social connections improve emotional wellbeing and mental and physical health. Connected communities are resilient communities. The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is rooted in that understanding. We human beings flourish in close-knit communities in which we feel valued and included.

The report notes that helping others can also go a long way towards improving our mental wellbeing. That is something to which we can all relate, because making someone else smile lifts our own spirits, too.

Importantly, the report identified four crucial factors that build individual and community resilience. First, we need community hubs and voluntary sector networks. Secondly, we need open and supportive community spaces where it is comfortable to talk openly about mental health and wellbeing. Thirdly, we need opportunities to actively participate and connect with other people. Finally, we need a sense of shared identity and belonging; that is key.

It is also important to be mindful that the research identified some groups that need special attention, including ethnic minorities, people who are new to an area, people who are living in poverty and our children and young people. I hope that we will have further opportunities to explore that in future debates.

Although Lanarkshire has some of the areas of highest deprivation in Scotland, we have also developed resilient community networks in response to the post-industrial economic and social deprivation that we faced. There are too many fantastic local projects for me to highlight them all tonight, but I will mention a couple.

There is, for example, the Food for Thought cafe and wellbeing centre, which is run by the Lanarkshire Association for Mental Health, in Wishaw. It is a community space that provides informal support for mental health—exactly the kind of open environment that is discussed in the report. Many people who access that support also make donations to help the cafe to provide free meals for others who are in need, so they are paying it forward.

Another brilliant example is Thorniewood community council. It does tonnes locally—from providing food parcels, to doing litter picks, to charity events. It now has a Covid memorial garden for remembering loved ones and it supports locals with bereavement care, which was another focus of the SAMH report. However, the community council goes beyond local boundaries, too. Last month, I went along to its Macmillan Cancer Support coffee morning, at which it raised more than £900 for cancer support.

I could say so much more, but I am over time, so I applaud the fundraising efforts of the Co-op and SAMH. Raising £8 million is a huge achievement of which to be proud. I look forward to hearing about the future success of the 50 mental wellbeing projects that the money will fund.

17:33  

Paul O’Kane (West Scotland) (Lab)

I thank Bill Kidd for bringing the vital issue of mental health to the chamber for debate. I also thank SAMH and all the other organisations that support our mental health in Scotland. I take the opportunity to place on the record my thanks to SAMH, Co-op, Mind and Inspire for their hard work in producing the excellent “Together Through Tough Times” report.

I struggle to think of anything that is more important than the mental health and wellbeing of everyone who lives in Scotland. I also struggle to think of a more important duty that we carry as legislators in Parliament than the responsibility to speak up and support the most vulnerable people in our society.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, coupled with the pressures that people face as a result of the soaring cost of living, the importance of mental health awareness and the fight against stigma have never been more acutely in focus. That is why the report is so timely and important. I know that many people felt that sense of importance last night at the reception that was hosted in the Parliament.

The circumstances that have brought about that focus continue to bring about challenges, hardship and losses in communities. We have a unique opportunity to confront head on the issues that are associated with mental health and wellbeing in a way that we have never had before.

As I am sure all colleagues did, I recognised in the report much about communities in my life and region. I think of the amazing resilience of communities across West Scotland, some of which are in the lower quartiles of the index of multiple deprivation. I think, for example, of the power of bereavement groups in local churches, which have been run for many years and have done the really important informal work of supporting people when they lose a loved one.

I think of the work of the community support and check-in groups that I saw in my community throughout Covid, and the work of people who come together and check in on one another at difficult times.

I also think of the excellent work that football clubs, such as Greenock Morton FC and St Mirren FC—two teams that one does not often hear mentioned in a positive way in the same sentence—have done around supporting young men, in particular, in communities to speak out, have a sense of ownership of the place where they live and that they care about, and to talk about how they feel and what is going on in their lives. All that support is important, and the report highlighted those examples clearly.

It is clear that there is an opportunity now to really focus on some of the more informal structures and give them the support that they need. I am sure that the Government will want to try to seize the moment with partners and do what is needed.

We are told time and again that poor mental health and suicide are priority issues for the Government. We have to reflect that Scotland has high rates of suicide, and we know that many vulnerable children and young people are struggling and waiting a long time to access mental health services—indeed, some of the recommendations in the report focus particularly on access to child and adolescent mental health services.

We must ensure that work such as that which the report highlights is well supported, and that groups have the funding that they need to be able to thrive. I have mentioned the issue of support for third sector groups in the chamber a number of times. As we continue to go through the cost of living crisis, we need to see a really dedicated effort to support those groups.

In an excellent and very important piece of research, which SAMH published last year during the pandemic,

“people reported feeling like a burden and anxious about adding to the pressure of the health service by asking for help and support.”

It is clear that we need to move towards a system of reformed referrals and triage services, and to operate “No wrong door” approaches, which might be through local community groups rather than through services that are more formal. It could mean that referrals for mental health support come from a range of sources, and that pathways towards support and accessible and adaptable services would depend on what each of us, as an individual, needs. We want communities that are more resilient.

I believe that by focusing on what is outlined in the report and reforming how we go about delivering services, we can ensure that no one is rejected from support and that every referral is signposted to the right service, so that everyone has the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

17:37  

Emma Roddick (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

I was pleased to be able to attend Bill Kidd’s reception last night. The contributions from people with lived experience in particular were striking, and I was glad to hear from the minister Kevin Stewart about how important it is to him that mental health policy comes from exactly that—lived experience. He said that that is not just important, but vital. As someone with that lived experience, I am reassured to have a minister responsible for mental health who understands the value in asking the people who know best where the work needs to be done.

I thank Bill Kidd for giving me the opportunity last night to speak with SAMH, See Me and others who attended, and for bringing the debate to the chamber this evening. I was interested to read the report—£8 million is an astonishing amount for Co-op branches to have raised for mental health, and I congratulate them on their campaign.

I was delighted to hear from SAMH’s Jo Anderson last night that the Co-op branch that raised the largest amount was in Stornoway, in my region. The store raised £40,000 despite the town having a population of only 4,800. I say a massive “Well done” to everyone in Stornoway who supported those incredible efforts.

Covid was very difficult for so many of us. I often say that the pandemic—particularly living through the lockdowns—was a trauma in itself. It brought other traumas, such as bereavements—I lost my mother to the virus. If any positive came from all that, it has to be the community reaction to the crisis. Across the country, groups formed and carried out incredible work helping people. People recognised that neighbours might need help getting messages, reached out, and showed support by putting signs in windows, or singing and clapping out of them.

I have no doubt that there are currently adverse mental health effects caused by the pandemic, and that there are long-term ones that we do not fully understand yet. The work that SAMH is doing in improving and solidifying community resilience was no doubt needed pre-pandemic, but it is even more well timed now. People want to come together. They are more aware than ever that the world is a strange place and we just do not know what national or international events might happen and change our everyday lives.

That is a hard thing to accept, particularly for many people who are neurodivergent. It can take a long time to get back to normal or form a new normal. I hear from people in the Highlands and Islands, particularly young and disabled people, about the acute anxiety that they are suffering now and how it is stopping them from doing the things that they like. Centred, which is a mental health charity in Inverness, has looked into that in its latest report.

Those people need care and support, often from health professionals but more so from their community. Anyone else who has gone through masses of cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness therapies will have had Maslow’s hierarchy of needs drilled into their brain: we need safety and belonging before we can develop self-esteem and self-actualisation.

I had the pleasure of visiting Cromarty Firth Men’s Shed earlier this year—a little community all on its own in the woods. Within minutes, I had been offered a standing invitation to future parties and a bacon roll. Such community-led, community-run projects mean so much to so many people. We all have mental health, and resilient communities go a long way in supporting and creating good mental health.

I have been thinking since my members’ business debate on mental health stigma last week about the community that is the Parliament and how we also have a responsibility to each other to support mental wellbeing and resilience in politics. If members need an example, I would point to Bill Kidd, who always seems to be quietly carrying out little acts of kindness. The job of an MSP can be all-consuming and, although we can disagree—sometimes fundamentally and completely—we should lead by example, perhaps be inspired by SAMH, the See Me campaign and others and look out for colleagues as we would for our constituents.

Well said, Ms Roddick.

17:41  

The Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care (Kevin Stewart)

I am grateful to all members for their participation in this important debate. I thank Bill Kidd for focusing attention on the important insights from the “Together Through Tough Times” report.

In his speech, Bill Kidd talked about helping others. As Emma Roddick highlighted, he is well known for a cheery smile and, for many of us, dropping off chocolate and biscuits at various points as an act of kindness. However, beyond that, his acts of kindness are well recognised in the communities that he represents. A couple of weeks ago, I was at Men Matter Scotland, which Mr Kidd mentioned in his speech. In pride of place in one of the rooms is a framed letter from him. Communities recognise that Bill Kidd spends a huge amount of his time helping others.

Last night, I was pleased to attend the parliamentary reception that Bill Kidd hosted on behalf of SAMH following the publication of the report. Members have spoken about the moving testimony that we heard last night from people with lived experience, which reinforced the importance of placing people and communities at the heart of everything that we do.

Stephanie Callaghan was absolutely right to point out that Linda’s speech last night was better than mine because she spoke from the heart about her experience, and there is nothing like that. The best bit of all was when she told us all that she went off script. That was straight from the heart.

We also heard from Theresa, who could not be with us last night but was on video. Bill Kidd spoke about her situation, but the thing that caught me most and gave me a lump in my throat was when, on that video, Theresa said, “I’ve conquered the world,” because the differences meant that much to her—they were that important.

We continue to live through unprecedented times and we cannot underestimate the cumulative effects that Covid-19, the conflict in Ukraine and the current cost of living have on our mental wellbeing. The role of communities in supporting people’s wellbeing is more important than ever. I welcome the contribution that the report makes to our understanding of that. The findings underline how communities can strengthen mental wellbeing by creating spaces to talk and access support.

The excellent work that has grown out of the partnership between the Co-op, SAMH, Mind and Inspire was celebrated in the reception last night. That shows us how such partnerships can develop community resilience. It also reflects our own commitment to build capacity within community organisations to support mental health and wellbeing, particularly in groups that are most at risk.

In 2021, the Government launched our communities mental health and wellbeing fund for adults to improve community mental wellbeing and tackle loneliness and isolation. We provided £21 million during the first year of the fund, and we were keen to ensure that people with lived experience and communities themselves shaped how the funding was spent. We achieved that through a network of 32 local partnership groups led by the third sector interfaces. To date, those partnerships have distributed funding to approximately 1,800 community projects across Scotland. That has benefited a diverse range of initiatives, including initiatives focused on sport and exercise, nature, social spaces, art and therapeutic approaches. A key theme is connecting people and providing community spaces for people to come together with others. There is also a particular focus on socioeconomic deprivation.

I have been fortunate to visit a number of those projects. I have met users of the West Lothian 50+ Network, which does great work to tackle social isolation among older people. I have also met users of Wellbeing Works Dundee and heard about their many activities and the fantastic community toolbox programme, which provides a free library of equipment that people can borrow and use.

This year, we have invested a further £15 million to continue that important community work and strengthen the emphasis on supporting people through the cost crisis and addressing mental health inequalities. We are already supporting Broke Not Broken in Perth and Kinross, which helps people who are facing socioeconomic disadvantage and people who are experiencing isolation, stress and anxiety through cooking classes and baby and women’s groups, to name just a few examples.

Our focus goes beyond adults. The community mental health and wellbeing supports and services framework provides £15 million to local authorities to fund community mental health-based services for children, young people and their families. That funding is flexible for councils, which implement support that meets their local priorities. That enables them to make services available to children and young people for whom CAMHS is not suitable or to those who are awaiting treatment. There are 230 of those new enhanced community-based supports throughout our country, and they operate in every council area. They have helped more than 38,000 children, young people and their parents and carers since the first half of 2022. That is more than double the number who accessed the support in the second half of 2021.

Presiding Officer, I could go on for hours talking about the good work that is going on across Scotland, but I know that you will not allow that, so I will finish. The debate has highlighted the pivotal role that communities play in supporting good mental health and wellbeing. I am grateful for all the thoughtful contributions from members, and I am grateful to the Co-op, SAMH, Mind and Inspire for an insightful report. We will continue to build the essential partnerships that are needed to protect our mental health and nurture thriving communities for all.

Meeting closed at 17:48.