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Mental health: policy context

Key mental health policy documents 

Improving mental health is a national priority in Scotland, as indicated by, for example,  Better Health, Better Care, 2007.  

Mental health policy encompasses a number of discrete strategies ( What research matters for mental health policy in Scotland (469Kb)). These include the Scottish Strategy for Autism (856Kb), the Learning Disability strategy “the keys to life”, the Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy, Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action and the road to recovery drug strategy (5.4Mb).

The national mental health strategy, focusing on mental health services and mental health improvement, was published by the Scottish Government on 10 August 2012. It details key commitments in mental health improvement, services and recovery for the delivery of quality care and treatment for people with a mental illness, their carers and families. 

The Scottish Government has recently published a consultation on the mental health strategy for the next 10 years, informed by a research review: What research matters for mental health policy in Scotland.

Previous policies with a specific mental health focus included:

In addition, the action plan Better Health, Better Care, 2007  reinforced the Scottish Government's commitment to improve people's mental wellbeing in Scotland

Mental Health (Care and Treatment)(Scotland) Act 2003 came into effect in October 2005. It promises to make a major contribution to achieving the ultimate objective of mental health law -to make sure people with mental health problems  receive effective care and treatment, in ways that are respectful, represent the least invasive or restrictive option possible, are non-discriminatory and sensitive to the needs of different service users.

Local Government in Scotland Act 2003: Power to Advance Well-Being Guidance provided local authorities with power to do anything which it considers likely to promote or improve the wellbeing of its area and persons within that area. This will include action to improve mental wellbeing.

A Scottish Framework for Nursing in Schools sets out the framework for school nursing teams to promote good mental health, both independently and as part of a multi-agency/multi-disciplinary team.

The World Health Organization Mental health declaration for Europe  (348Kb) and the Mental health action plan  (233Kb) were signed by Member States in the WHO European region in Helsinki, Finland January 2005.

The Mental Health of Children and Young People: A framework for promotion, prevention and care, 2005 was developed to assist all agencies with planning and delivering integrated approaches to children and young people's mental health by translating policy intent to a younger age group.

A Review of Scotland's National Programme for Improving Mental Health and Wellbeing, 2003-2006  (390Kb) examined progress in achieving the aims set out in the National Programme Action Plan (2003-2006), to assess its influence and impacts, and to arrive at conclusions that could inform the future direction of policy on mental health improvement in Scotland.

Several national initiatives and infrastructures have been established to take forward components of the National Programme:

  • NHS Health Scotland: Mental Health Improvement: details mental health improvement related programme of work being taken forward by NHS Health Scotland and other partners and includes links to Mental Health Improvement learning opportunities, research, publications and related websites.
  • NHS Health Scotland: Mental Health Indicators Programme: a project establishing a core set of national mental health indicators for Scotland.
  • ISD Scotland mental health programme: formed to improve the fragmented and poorly developed mental health information within Scottish care settings, in order to help develop service provision and benefit overall service user/client care.
  • Choose Life website: national strategy and action plan to prevent suicide in Scotland published in December 2002.
  • Scottish Recovery Network: aims to engage communities across Scotland on how best to promote and support recovery from long-term mental health problems.
  • See me Scotland: a national campaign to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that people with mental health problems face.
  • Breathing Space: a free and confidential phone line service for any individual, who is experiencing low mood or depression, or who is unusually worried and in need of someone to talk to.
  • Samaritans: a free and confidential phone line service for any individual, who is experiencing low mood or depression, or who is unusually worried and in need of someone to talk to.
  • Scotland's Mental Health First Aid: a training course that helps people to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health problems and how to offer initial assistance, support and guidance.
  • Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives: A programme designed to promote health improvement among working age people through the workplace. It includes a component designed to give employers the understanding, knowledge and skills to address a wide variety of issues relating to employment and mental health.
  • Valuing Young People, 2009 sets out the framework to ensure that all children and young people in Scotland become "successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens". This is supported by policy documents such as A guide to Getting it Right for Every Child, 2008  (2.8Mb), The Early Years Framework and the Curriculum for Excellence.

See Key references and evidence for other relevant mental health policy documents and initiatives.

Page last updated: 22 December 2016

© Scottish Public Health Observatory 2014