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Danielle Rowley: It’s time Scotland treated mental wellbeing support as a human right

The ongoing Covid pandemic and cost of living crisis have taken their toll on mental health (Photo: SewCream/Shutterstock)
The ongoing Covid pandemic and cost of living crisis have taken their toll on mental health (Photo: SewCream/Shutterstock)

A crisis can unfold at any hour.

Moments in time when we need someone to turn to for a kind voice or a non-judgemental ear. Small talk may often be enough to make someone feel less alone, and can have an enormous impact during those points of struggle that can affect any one of us.

That has been Samaritans’ raison d’être for almost 70 years; to offer that trusted listening space on the phone, responding to letters or, increasingly, chatting online. Our goal is to ensure fewer lives are lost to suicide by being there to listen 24/7, in a variety of ways, to suit different people.

As well as support in those moments of need, we have grown to work towards a vision of ensuring fewer people reach crisis point, with hope that, in time, fewer people will need to ring our helpline.

As influencing manager, I am privileged to be part of our wider work in preventing suicide in Scotland. By sharing our experience, our research and our voice, working hand in hand with people at every step of the way, we hope to shape national discussion and policy on suicide, to help save more lives.

Working towards a more compassionate and caring society

We know our services and our voice have rarely been more vital. The personal challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic are not yet over. Economic uncertainty has added fresh worries for many.

The conversation around mental health has grown louder, with greater recognition of its causes and impacts

Likewise, a cost of living crisis, structural inequality, poverty, isolation in rural areas, and obstacles to accessing support are all factors that may fuel poor mental and physical health.

We must do more to respond to these growing problems. That is what we are pledging in our new Scottish Strategic Delivery Plan, which is launched this week. Positive mental wellbeing and support when it is needed should be a human right. We commit to working towards a Scotland where it is accessible for all.

That means removing barriers, reaching out, listening to the voices of those with experience of distress and suicide, and ensuring those voices are heard by people with the power to make change. The conversation around mental health has grown louder, with greater recognition of its causes and impacts.

Through our volunteers, Samaritans is embedded within our communities pushing for lasting change, working with partners and offering a challenging but constructive viewpoint. We need others to help us reach more people, and to spread the message that it’s OK to reach out.

Together, we can build a compassionate and caring society where no one must face their struggles alone.

Danielle Rowley is influencing manager at Samaritans Scotland and a former MP

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