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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, September 29, 2016

Meeting of the Parliament 29 September 2016

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Mental Health Education, Early Learning and Childcare Provision, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time


Mental Health Education

The next item of business is a members’ debate on motion S5M-01183, in the name of Jenny Gilruth, on mental health education. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. Members who wish to speak should press their request-to-speak buttons now.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes what it sees as the vital importance of mental health education in contributing to closing the attainment gap in Mid Fife and Glenrothes and across the country; is concerned that 70% of young people recently surveyed by the Scottish Youth Parliament said that they did not know what mental health support was available in their area; understands that the Scottish Government will be publishing a new mental health strategy later in 2016, and notes the view that the strategy should provide clear curriculum guidance regarding mental health education.


I am delighted to be speaking today in my first members’ business debate on mental health education in schools, which I care passionately about.

Exactly a week after I was elected, I was contacted by my constituent, Rachel, who is in secondary 5 at Glenrothes high school. She wanted to know why teaching about mental health is not a compulsory part of the curriculum. She wanted to know why lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer issues are not discussed openly in personal and social education lessons. She quoted GIRFEC—getting it right for every child—which is the Scottish Government policy that aims to support

“the wellbeing of our children and young people by offering the right help at the right time from the right people”.

If the Government is to close the attainment gap and drive aspiration and ambition in the next generation, I believe—as Rachel does—that it is imperative that schools get to grips with mental health education.

We were all at school once, and we all think that we know about education. However, whether we sat O grades or standard grades, national 5s or sixth year studies exams, a commonality remains: to succeed academically, a pupil needs to be supported. When 74 per cent of young people do not know what mental health services are available in their area, it is clear that teachers, pupils and schools need support and direction from the Government to deliver that aspiration.

I have noticed in recent weeks that the Government has conflated the terminology of “attainment” and “achievement”. Those are different words. “Attainment” is a narrow measure of academic success. “Achievement”, however, is a far broader concept that can be about a contribution to the whole school, about playing for the school football team, or about applying oneself in class to the best of one’s abilities. It is not something that we can, necessarily, measure with a test. I argue that without our schools building in opportunities for our young people to achieve, we will never fully be able to close the attainment gap. Schools should not, after all, be exams factories. To that end, I was delighted by the announcement by the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills last week that mandatory unit assessments for national 5s and highers will be removed.

Our schools have a key role to play in preparing our young people for life and in skilling them with resilience, confidence and the attributes that they need to cope in an ever-changing economy. Those are the fundamental principles of curriculum for excellence.

What, though, is the picture for our young people in Scottish schools today? For girls it is mixed. A recent Educational Institute of Scotland report entitled “Getting it right for Girls” makes for some pretty shocking reading. Casual misogyny was found to be commonplace—for example, using terms such as “man up” or “girlie” in a derogatory fashion. That type of behaviour impacts on girls’ mental health directly because it makes them feel unequal.

Last month, a Chartered Management Institute report showed that the gender pay gap in Scotland is the worst in the United Kingdom at 29.2 per cent, with a difference of £11,000 between the earnings of men and women.

As Rachel stated, mental health education is of vital importance to pupils from the LGBT community. A report by the Time for Education campaign found that 90 per cent of LGBT pupils who were surveyed had experienced homophobia, biphobia and transphobia while at school, and 72 per cent of those reported that that bullying had not been challenged by teachers. Only 4 per cent felt that the Scottish Government was doing enough to tackle it.

It is clear our schools need to do more to ensure that LGBT bullying is tackled head on. The associated link between such behaviour and poor mental health is evident: 42 per cent of respondents who had been bullied because of their LGBT label had attempted suicide once or more than once. Furthermore, a Stonewall Scotland report from 2014 highlighted that LGBT people were almost four times more likely than the general population to access mental health services. If pupils across Scotland are not taught about mental health—whether it be anxiety, depression, bereavement or low confidence—how can we say that we have succeeded in preparing the next generation for the challenges that the world is yet to throw in their way?

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD) rose—

I do not have time for an intervention just now.

As Samaritans has highlighted, young people in Scotland have some of the highest rates of health and social inequality in Europe and North America. The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland notes evidence that children in low-income households are nearly three times more likely to suffer from mental health problems than are their more affluent peers. There is clearly a link between poverty and poor mental health.

We know that poverty presents in school. Last year, an EIS survey recorded an increase in the number of pupils who were coming to school without any food—not even a play piece. The Government is seeking to close the attainment gap that exists between Scotland’s poorest and wealthiest children. The Government must therefore recognise that children who grow up in poverty face greater challenges in attaining academically. Conversely, schools need to focus their efforts on the type of social and emotional support that will build resilience and confidence, thereby enabling pupils to succeed academically and to go on to lead fulfilling lives. That type of support will further seek to challenge discrimination and intolerance.

In its submission to the Government’s mental health strategy consultation, the Scottish Association for Mental Health noted the 30 per cent increase in the child and adolescent mental health services workforce between 2009 and 2016, but it also noted the increase in the waiting list for assessment and the number of young people who are being admitted for CAMHS treatment. SAMH also points to the fact that not all health boards are meeting the access to treatment target. I am sure that the minister will agree that waiting for mental health support such as CAMHS is not acceptable. For young people, it can be devastating. SAMH is calling on the Government to include the assessment of mental health education in the schools inspection regime and I support SAMH in that aspiration.

This time last year, I was a teacher. Every morning, I stood in front of my registration class for 15 minutes, saying the school prayer, taking the register, and reading the daily bulletin. Registration also involved listening to my pupils. For that reason, I always found registration to be a fundamental part of the school day. Although it is now time for the Government to reflect critically on how mental health education is delivered, there is also a role for individual schools, in particular secondary schools, to reflect on how they timetable that first point of contact between pupils and teaching staff in the school day.

I know that some local authorities have removed registration altogether, but from sexism to homophobia, from any type of bullying to bereavement, registration is a crucial time in the school day in which pupils often come to teachers with their fears. I know that from experience.

Health and wellbeing is a core curriculum area under curriculum for excellence. A whole page of curriculum content is devoted to mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing. It is clear, however, that the Government needs to provide greater clarity to schools in developing a preventative approach to issues around mental health, and to supporting resilience in the next generation. I understand that the Government is reviewing its mental health strategy, and I am grateful that the minister will provide a response today. I say to the minister that the strategy must contain a reference to delivery of mental health education in our schools if it is to be truly effective.

Young people need to know what good mental health means. They need, for example, to be taught about the importance of sport in developing positive mental health, and they need to develop an understanding of how positive relationships with others can decrease depression and anxiety. They need to be taught resilience within the safe space of the classroom, as Rachel explained to me in May.

I hope that the Government will listen.


I thank Jenny Gilruth for this members’ business and for giving us the opportunity to talk about mental health in the chamber today. It is an area of health policy that has often been overlooked in the past and is now receiving the kind of attention that it deserves. I commend her for her persistence in pursuing the matter.

Although there is a high degree of political consensus around mental health, we cannot let consensus breed complacency. Around one quarter of Scots suffer, or have suffered, from a mental health problem. That remains a staggering statistic and, given the stigma that still surrounds the issue, the figure might be higher still.

I will concentrate my brief remarks on the Scottish Youth Parliament’s report on mental health, which notes that the one-in-four figure is mirrored in young people—one in four suffer, or have suffered, from a mental health problem. It is astonishing that half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14, and three quarters by the age of 21.

Last week, with my colleague Miles Briggs, I had the pleasure of meeting a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament. I was incredibly impressed with her passion to see change in how we think about mental health and how we act on it—her message was loud and clear. The topic is being raised in youth parliaments across the UK because—to use the SYP’s terminology—it is truly an “epidemic” among our young people. As Jenny Gilruth notes in her motion, it is extremely worrying that 70 per cent of young people are unaware of what mental health services are available in their community. That is not just down to a lack of publicly available information; it is—as the Scottish Youth Parliament’s report notes—also down to mental health not being discussed enough in the classroom.

That report says that discussing mental health is

“way down the list of priorities”

and that

“It’s felt to be more important for you to get qualifications than be healthy and happy at school”.

With that in mind, it is no wonder that only one tenth of young people feel that they would be comfortable talking to a teacher about their mental health. In my view, we need to act now so that young people feel confident and able to discuss mental health openly, without fear of ridicule or recrimination.

I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government will later this year be publishing its strategy for mental health, which will, I hope, provide a blueprint for addressing the mental health needs of Scots of all ages, but particularly young people. However, we cannot just let that strategy gather dust: well-intentioned sentiments must be matched with action.

Our party points to our pledge for an additional £300 million to be invested in improving mental health treatment over the course of this parliamentary session. We would like to see some of that go towards mental health education.

It is clear from the Scottish Youth Parliament’s report and other sources that we need to work harder to deliver better mental health support in education, and to ensure that all young people in particular are aware of where to find such support.

The emphasis on early intervention in the Scottish Government’s consultation paper is welcome, but as the Scottish Youth Parliament has noted, more needs to be done in schools to ensure that mental health becomes an open topic, rather than a closed book.


I congratulate my colleague Jenny Gilruth on securing an opportunity to discuss this important issue. I apologise for having to leave before the debate is concluded.

The Scottish Government put down a marker in this area when it launched the Scottish attainment challenge in February 2015 and referenced delivery not just in relation to literacy and numeracy but health and wellbeing, thereby joining the dots between the two areas.

As Barnardo’s states in its briefing for the debate,

“Good mental health is integral to children and young people’s ability to achieve and reach their full potential in education.”

We know that there can be a number of contributory factors to poor mental health among young people and I will touch on a couple. First, there is bullying. I am mindful of the push to tackle LGBT bullying, which Jenny Gilruth highlighted. We would all, of course, be supportive of that, but it is important that we do not focus on that particular type of bullying to the detriment of other types. Bullying is bullying, whether it concerns someone’s sexuality, ethnicity or appearance, and it is unacceptable on so many levels, not least of which is that of mental harm. Indeed, bullying can leave a legacy into adulthood.

Secondly—I admit that I had not recognised this factor until reading the Marie Curie briefing for the debate—there is the impact of bereavement. Any adult who has suffered the loss of a parent knows the impact, immediate and lingering, that it can have. Imagine what it must be like for a youngster who does not have the emotional maturity that comes with adulthood and life experience.

We are told that 2,500 parents die each year in Scotland, leaving 4,100 bereaved children. The research suggests that there are more than 5,000 kids in our country who are significantly affected by bereavement and that 90 per cent of those at Polmont young offenders institution have suffered significant bereavement in the past. Those are thought-provoking statistics that absolutely endorse the Government’s plans to appoint a new national co-ordinator for childhood bereavement.

How do we set about better supporting young people in this area? There is quite clearly a need for early identification of issues and for the creation of an environment within educational settings that increases knowledge and understanding around mental health and gives youngsters ready access to any information and support that they might require in the area and the confidence to take advantage of that. We need to be able to head off a majority of issues long before CAMHS referrals become necessary.

However, in developing such an approach, we must also—more than anything—listen to the views of young people themselves in order to understand what they feel they need and the form that messages might best take.

Jenny Gilruth’s motion notes the report by the Scottish Youth Parliament on the matter. I want to reference a comment from the report, covering the lived experience of a youngster who, feeling isolated and alone, sought to self-diagnose online:

“The internet is a very scary place. It over-exaggerates and the scaremongering is extreme ... I was feeling sad at the start of the year. I googled how I was feeling, and by the end I was convinced I had paranoid schizophrenia. It was terrifying.”

That comment really hammers home the need to ensure that troubled young people can easily access the right information and support.

It was reported recently that more than 900 children in Scotland contacted ChildLine about suicide last year. That stat tells us that we are currently coming up short in the area of children’s mental health.

I will finish on a positive note by highlighting a small example of good practice that is being implemented in my constituency—indeed, at the primary school that my children attended. Deaf children often suffer from low self-esteem and mental health issues as a result of feeling isolated, particularly if they are the only child in their school who is deaf. Carlogie primary in Carnoustie has a hearing support base for deaf pupils from across Angus, so in that setting isolation is less of an issue. Nevertheless, the base offers a communal area where deaf pupils can meet each other in the morning and discuss their day with the teacher of the deaf before beginning class—an opportunity that is damagingly denied them in mainstream settings.

That initiative, and the wider work that is done by the hearing support base, is designed to develop confidence and positive self-esteem and to ensure inclusion, thereby helping to address the mental health and wellbeing of the deaf pupils. It may sound like a relatively simple idea that is targeted at a relatively small number of young people, but successfully tackling mental health issues among youngsters will involve small-scale as well as large-scale measures. If we are to achieve that success, we must ensure that no group is excluded.


I am grateful to Jenny Gilruth for bringing a debate on this important motion to the chamber. As Scottish Labour’s inequalities spokeswoman, I welcome the opportunity to debate the contribution that mental health education can make to closing the attainment gap.

Jenny Gilruth rightly refers in her motion to the worrying statistics collated by the Scottish Youth Parliament, which members have mentioned today. They show that almost three quarters of young people who have experienced a mental health problem did not know what support was available in their local area. We must commend the Scottish Youth Parliament for its comprehensive research, which has enabled us to hear the voices of almost 1,500 young people from across Scotland. It is concerning that more than half of the young people in the survey said that they would not feel comfortable speaking to a teacher about mental health. That indicates that we need a cultural shift to deal with what the SYP is calling “Our generation’s epidemic”.

I am not sure whether it was Terri Smith, the chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, to whom Donald Cameron was referring in his speech, but I too had the pleasure of meeting her recently. She talked me through the vital work that the SYP is carrying out to uncover the truth about young people and mental health. I was really moved by her story of recovery from mental health issues. The fact that she has spoken so openly will certainly encourage others to do the same.

It is clear from speaking to Terri Smith and other young people that they feel that they are being failed by the system that should be supporting them. That is putting young people at a disadvantage in the classroom.

Jenny Gilruth spoke about the region of Mid Scotland and Fife. In the Central Scotland region that I serve, dozens and dozens of young people are unable to access the mental health services that they need. We have discussed the CAMHS targets today, and I look forward to getting an update from the minister on the efforts that are being made to address the issue of waiting times. It is simply unacceptable that thousands of young people are left languishing on waiting lists for more than four and a half months, which amounts to more than an entire school term.

Jenny Gilruth highlighted the link between poverty and poor mental health. Just last week at First Minister’s question time, I raised that point with Nicola Sturgeon. The Scottish health survey shows that there is a real postcode lottery and a link between deprivation and poor mental health. That situation is not improving. The Government has recognised that there is much more work to be done, and I hope that we see in the new mental health strategy a commitment to take forward evidence-based, targeted programmes to improve this dismal situation and address the stubborn link between deprivation and poor mental health.

We know that the treatment of young people with mental health issues is just as important as treatment for those who experience problems with physical health. There needs to be a step change in the way in which schools approach attainment to ensure that good mental health is embedded in the curriculum. The Scottish Youth Parliament is in a strong position to make recommendations on the matter. It suggests that Education Scotland should develop a mental health standard for schools to bring mental health into sharp focus in classrooms.

Graeme Dey mentioned Barnardo’s Scotland, which has come up with some really good ideas in its response to the Government’s consultation. I hope that those ideas will be taken on board. Barnardo’s tells us that it feels that there is an overemphasis on the medical model and that there should be more emphasis on a social model. The “Time 4 Me” project in Northern Ireland presents some really good practice and I hope that the minister can take that on board when she looks at the consultation responses.

Wraparound support programmes provide opportunities to promote positive mental and emotional health through discussion around relationships, working with others, sex, drugs, smoking, alcohol and other health-related issues. For those pupils who are having difficulties or are in distress, schools also have the capacity to offer support through mentoring or school-based counselling.

That is a model we can all learn from, and I urge the Scottish Government to look at Barnardo’s work in Northern Ireland as the new mental health strategy is taken forward.


I also congratulate Jenny Gilruth on securing today’s debate. I am pleased to take part in it. It is important to recognise the classroom experience that she brought to the chamber on the issue. I hope that the minister takes forward her ideas.

All of us agree that mental health education is extremely important. We must work to deliver a better strategy in the future that meets the needs of our young people. Early access to information and support can be crucial in preventing mental health difficulties among our young children and adolescents developing into more acute mental health conditions. Awareness and information have a vital part to play in progressing the elimination of the stigma around mental health problems.

Half of those with lifetime mental health problems first experienced symptoms by the age of 14. Jenny Gilruth’s motion refers to the Scottish Youth Parliament’s recently published report on mental health awareness and information, “Our generation’s epidemic”. As Donald Cameron said, we both met the Scottish Youth Parliament last week to discuss the report, which makes a valuable and welcome contribution to the debate.

As the motion suggests, it is of great concern that the vast majority of young people who took part in the SYP’s research did not know what mental health information, support and services were available in their local areas. One of the report’s key recommendations is that schools, colleges and universities should all provide high-quality information about mental health.

We believe that it is essential that such information is made available, and that access to it is user friendly. Where possible, pupils and students should be involved in the process so that they can have real input on the type of information they would like to receive and its design. Young people should be aware of what support is available for them in their local areas, and mental health and physical health should be looked at together.

For a generation that is used to getting most of its information from the internet, it is appropriate that young people are directed to safe online resources such as Young Minds and aye mind. Aye mind works with young people aged 13 to 21 to create and share a wide range of online resources in partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Snook and the Mental Health Foundation.

I believe that social media has a vital role to play, and that companies such as Facebook and Twitter should also play a role in providing information. As part of the social responsibility agenda, those companies could be encouraged to offer opportunities in their geographical and age-specific advertising. I have written to both Facebook and Twitter to raise that idea and I am happy to share the responses with members across the chamber once I receive them.

We also believe that age-appropriate information on local mental health support services should be provided in general practitioner surgeries, hospitals and other national health service settings. Informal peer-to-peer support at youth groups, clubs and voluntary organisations that work with young people is also vital.

The previous mental health strategy made a commitment to increase local knowledge of social prescribing opportunities—low-intensity treatments such as self-help and peer support—but SAMH has pointed out that progress in meeting that commitment has been very slow.

A lot of good work is already being done in the voluntary sector to offer mental health education and support to our young people. I commend Place2Be, which is working with primary schools in some of Edinburgh’s most disadvantaged communities to offer therapeutic and emotional support to pupils and their families.

Today’s debate is timely. I hope that it will help inform ministers as they prepare the new mental health strategy and encourage them to ensure that mental health education is an integral part of that strategy when it is brought forward.


I join others in congratulating Jenny Gilruth, not just on securing the debate but on setting the scene very well. I also thank the Scottish Youth Parliament for its work in the area. “Our generation’s epidemic: Young people’s awareness and experience of mental health information, support, and services” is a thorough report that articulates very well the nature of the problems that are faced and what gives rise to them. Just as important, it goes on to set out a number of recommendations, all of which are practical and deliverable, on information, support and services.

I pay particular tribute to Orkney’s two members of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Jack Norquoy and Thorfinn Moffat, for their actions in promoting the report locally in Orkney, and for effectively articulating the specific islands dimension to the issue. Young people who live in an island setting face specific challenges—for example, the availability of services or the risk of isolation—that, perhaps, others do not have to face.

Before I address the specifics of the report and focus on the motion, I will make a couple of general observations on mental health. I still feel that it is not being taken seriously enough, which shames us all. Mental ill health will affect about one person in three in this country during their life, but we are still not open or honest enough about it. The impacts can be shattering for individuals and their family, friends and wider communities. Ultimately, there can be no good health without good mental health. That is why I believe that mental health needs to have parity in law with the treatment of physical health. If nothing else, that will help to drive budgetary decisions.

The on-going lack of a mental health strategy is more than regrettable.

Will the member take an intervention?

I do not have time. The minister can address the point when she winds up.

I realise that the strategy is in the offing, but it is simply not acceptable that it has been allowed to lapse. I very much welcome Maureen Watt’s appointment to her role, but her appointment needs to lead to the Government upping its game.

As I outlined, it is widely recognised that poor mental health has a damaging impact, but that is particularly so for young people, not least in shaping their life chances. That is illustrated well in the SYP report. Poor mentaI health can affect attainment, as Jenny Gilruth’s motion rightly points out; it damages relationships and attachment; it undermines self-confidence and self-esteem; and it can exacerbate health inequalities, although it is important to remember that it affects people from all backgrounds and all parts of the country—it is utterly indiscriminate in that respect.

The report also paints an unsettling picture of patchy availability and awareness of services. I put on record my gratitude to all those who provide vital mental health services, both nationally and locally in my Orkney constituency, including the local mental health team, third sector organisations such as the Samaritans and the Orkney Blide Trust, and counselling services. In that regard, I declare an interest as a patron of the Orkney Alcohol Counselling & Advisory Service. I look forward to taking part in a panel discussion with a number of those groups at the Orkney youth cafe next month, but I think that they would all contend that they are under enormous strain. Gaps exist, delays are happening and young people are suffering as a consequence. Jenny Gilruth made that point powerfully in her opening speech.

As I said, the SYP’s recommendations are practical and perhaps chart a way of delivering improvements, whether through a mental health standard for schools, the availability of good information for children and young people in our schools, or an action plan to promote good mental health. However, those things need to form part of a wider effort and to be picked up in the Government’s overall strategy when it is finally produced.

I thank Jenny Gilruth again for making the debate possible and I thank the Scottish Youth Parliament for its invaluable contribution, which shines a light on an issue that too often remains shrouded in stigma, ignorance and complacency. It is long overdue that we, as a country, speak our mind clearly when it comes to the critical importance of good mental health.


I, too, thank Jenny Gilruth for bringing this debate to the chamber. I am pleased to respond on behalf of the Scottish Government.

However, I start by saying that Liam McArthur has got it completely wrong. We have, and have had, a mental health strategy. It is just that we are going to update it and take it forward for the next 10 years, and I have been working on that since I was appointed to my post. Those who work in mental health and all the young people who have contributed through their various organisations realise that the Government is taking the issue very seriously through the creation of my position, which has been well received by the many organisations that I have met.

The importance of mental wellbeing in raising attainment and closing the gap is recognised, and it is a focus of many of the authorities and schools that are involved in the Scottish attainment challenge. Using nurturing and restorative approaches helps to create positive environments in which to encourage marginalised children and young people to learn, thrive and feel engaged.

Health and wellbeing is one of the eight curricular areas in curriculum for excellence. Its substantial importance is reflected in its position at the centre of the curriculum and at the heart of children’s learning, as well as in the fact that it is a central focus of the Scottish attainment challenge and the national improvement framework for education. Along with literacy and numeracy, health and wellbeing is one of the three core areas that are the responsibility of all staff in schools. Children and young people should feel happy, safe, respected and included in the learning environment, and all staff should be proactive in promoting positive relationships and behaviour in the classroom, playground and wider learning community.

Jenny Gilruth specifically mentioned the position of LGBT children. The Government is providing £75,000 to LGBT Youth Scotland to underpin delivery of youth work to young LGBT people, which includes supporting their positive mental health. The Deputy First Minister recently met LGBT Youth Scotland to discuss what can be done to support those with LGBT issues.

The Scottish Government recognises the importance of nurturing approaches in addressing and overcoming the barriers that some children experience in school. That addresses many of the concerns around equity that are outlined in the Scottish attainment challenge.

Education Scotland has developed a national resource to support the development and practice of nurturing approaches for secondary schools, which will help to provide equal opportunities for all children and young people to learn and develop. Monica Lennon and Miles Briggs made good points when they said that people are not aware of what is available. People may have heard of CAMHS but, as many members said, they might not need to wait for CAMHS—I am dealing with waiting times, which is a separate issue—as they may instead require lower-tier intervention. Children’s input to that is vital and a lot of third sector organisations are involved in it.

Does the minister accept that having counsellors based in schools might be part of the solution? Rather than have people waiting to go through the CAMHS referral system, might it not be a better approach to have support in schools?

Absolutely, and that is already happening in many schools. For example, we are providing £90,000 for Place2Be, which is a charity that provides school-based mental health services, including one-to-one counselling and group therapy—I think that Miles Briggs mentioned it. Place2Be is delivering those services in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and it is expanding into North Ayrshire. It deals with a wide range of social issues that might be affecting children’s mental health.

Education Scotland is developing a national resource to support the development and practice of nurturing approaches for primary schools. A whole-school nurturing approach can promote school connectedness, resilience and the development of social and emotional competences, all of which are key aspects of promoting mental wellbeing.

In Jenny Gilruth’s own patch of Fife, six primary schools and three secondary schools are receiving support through the Scottish attainment challenge schools programme, through which more than £450,000 has been allocated to the primary schools in 2016-17. The funding is supporting improvements in health and wellbeing across the schools, with a focus on supporting wellbeing through the recruitment of educational psychologists and family support workers.

I highlight the example of St Kenneth’s primary school in Lochgelly, which is funding a drugs, alcohol and psychotherapy worker to work with children and families and talk through concerns through nurture, counselling and coaching support, with the aim of reducing or negating social and emotional barriers to learning.

As other members have done, I very much welcome the Scottish Youth Parliament’s latest research, “Our generation’s epidemic: Young people’s awareness and experience of mental health information, support, and services”. That research has been undertaken as part of the SYP’s speak your mind campaign on mental health. I met the Scottish Youth Parliament on 21 September, and I congratulate it on its fascinating and well-written document. I have taken note of the recommendations that are specifically for the Scottish Government, and we will consider those as part of our public engagement on the new mental health strategy.

During that public engagement, we have worked closely with the Scottish Youth Parliament to ensure that young people have had an opportunity to contribute their views on matters that affect them. In addition, I met the Church of Scotland’s youth assembly, Young Scot and the Scottish children’s services coalition in an effort to help me to decide how to take forward the strategy. That work is all part of the improvement agenda that we have driven forward over the past few years through the delivery of our national mental health and suicide prevention strategies.

I expect that the new strategy will focus on encouraging the development of new models of managing mental health problems in primary care, and I anticipate that it will have a very strong focus on early intervention and prevention, which Donald Cameron mentioned. The strategy will certainly not gather dust on my watch. As soon as the strategy is published, I will drive it forward and I will continue to do so for as long as I am in this post.

The strategy will also have a focus on developing and measuring outcomes for mental health work, and part of the significant £150 million of additional investment that the Scottish Government recently announced for improving mental health and wellbeing will contribute directly to that aim. In January, the First Minister announced that part of that funding—£54.1 million of it—will go towards directly improving access to mental health services for adults and children.

In February, we announced a mental health primary care fund as part of our £10 million commitment to mental health primary care services and the wider transformation of primary care. Working with their partners, boards can submit proposals for innovative approaches to mental health support in primary care. That provides a real opportunity to think differently about how services are organised.

I look forward to the challenge—it is certainly a challenge—and I look forward to working with members to deliver our ambition.

Thank you. That concludes the debate. I suspend the meeting until 2.30.

13:22 Meeting suspended.  

14:30 On resuming—