New Minister speaks about importance of role.
Commenting on her new role as Mental Health Minister at the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, Maureen Watt said:
"I am extremely proud to be appointed as Scotland's first dedicated Mental Health Minister, and the first in the UK. Starting my new position during Mental Health Awareness Week makes it particularly special for me – a reminder of what an important role it is.
"Mental Health is an absolute priority of this government, demonstrated by the fact that we have committed an additional £150 million to improve mental health services. Some of that has already been invested in innovation; improving access to child and adolescent mental health services and psychological therapies; and primary care. I look forward to announcing more details of how the remainder will be spent in the coming weeks and months. Later this year we will be publishing a ten year strategy to improve mental health and services – I see this as the centrepiece of this Government's focus on improving Mental Health.
"We are currently working on the development of the next Strategy, and over the last few months we have engaged with a wide range of stakeholders including people who use services, service providers and professional bodies. The Scottish Association for Mental Health and Voices of Experience also hosted engagement events and the Strategy will be informed by all of the comments and input that we have received.
"I want us to focus more on prevention and early intervention. By addressing mental health problems as early as possible, we can prevent people from becoming more distressed, and improve access to services when needed by reducing pressure on the NHS.
"We need to think about new and innovative ways to improve mental health. That means looking for approaches that go beyond traditional health settings. It will also mean taking advantage of the well-known links between physical health and mental wellbeing. If we can get people more active, the benefits are enormous. We want to tackle the 15-20 year difference in life expectancy for people living with serious mental illness.
"Around 90 per cent of mental health problems are dealt with in primary care settings, so this will be a priority area for us. Part of the £150 million will be used to fund new ways of responding to these issues in and around GP surgeries.
"In recent years we've seen a significant increase in the number of people accessing mental health services. If that means more people are prepared to ask for help rather than suffer in silence, that should be welcomed. NHS boards are seeing more people than ever before, but I'm clear that more work needs to be done to meet the waiting time standards we have set.
"Finally I want to say something about the stigma which still exists around mental health. It is completely wrong that people with mental health issues suffer discrimination and stigma. Sadly too many still do.
"The Scottish Government, in collaboration with Comic Relief, funds the See Me initiative to help address this, and they do valuable work. But the truth is that each and every one of us has it within our power to do our bit to end this stigma, and to be more understanding of people who have mental health problems."