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A new plan which includes extensive use of digital resources will help ensure mental health and wellbeing remains at the heart of the Scottish Government’s response to COVID-19.

By Kevin O'Sullivan

Children and young people, those facing redundancy, and people with long-term physical health conditions and disabilities are among key groups the plan focuses on.

It builds on innovations and new service designs that have emerged in response to the pandemic, such as the ‘Clear Your Head’ campaign, the expansion of digital services and the establishment of Mental Health Assessment Centres.

As well as promoting good mental health and wellbeing, the plan prioritises rapid and easily accessible support for those in distress and ensures safe, effective treatment and care of people living with mental illness. A tailored programme of work will help individual NHS Boards respond effectively to the anticipated increase in demand in the months ahead.

Announcing the plan to parliament, Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said: “If the past few weeks have told us anything, it is that the road to recovery from this pandemic will not be linear. However, one thing that has remained constant is the importance of looking after ourselves, and of keeping well.

“I doubt there is a single one of us who hasn’t thought about our mental wellbeing or worried about that of others, at some point during 2020.

“Throughout this year, mental health has continued to be an absolute priority for this government, and we’ve invested £6 million of dedicated funding to support the whole population.

“Our Transition and Recovery Plan for Mental Health reflects how fundamental this issue is. It is comprehensive, containing over a hundred actions, and focusses on the specific mental health needs of everyone across Scotland.”

“As with all health services, mental health services had to adapt quickly to delivering support and care in different ways. Many NHS Health Boards have moved parts of their services online, and have provided less urgent care digitally using Near Me. We will further build on this success with the roll-out of Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which will support a minimum of a further 10,000 people,” the new government plan states.

Director of Scotland and Northern Ireland at the Mental Health Foundation, Lee Knifton, commented: “We are pleased to see the Scottish Government embark on a mental health in all policies agenda and to have played a role in shaping this plan. We have consistently advocated for all policies approach and today’s plan feels like a breakthrough moment. Mental health is much more than mental illness, it must be considered in our schools, workplaces, our welfare system and our justice system. This plan is an important step in that direction.

“It is encouraging to see that the Scottish Government has taken our recommendations on board and we look forward to working in partnership to implement the commitments laid out. This ambitious plan will need investment to achieve maximum impact, but any investment in mental health will realise social, health and economic benefits down the line.”

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