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by Louise Christie
04 April 2022
Associate Feature: A recovery  focused refresh

Associate Feature: A recovery focused refresh

We are halfway through the Scottish Government’s 10-year Mental Health Strategy (2017-2027) and a refresh is underway.  I know I am not alone in believing that this refresh is very much needed. So much has changed since 2017 including some of our thinking about what is possible. It is a great opportunity to think again about what it is we want from a Mental Health Strategy and where we want to be in five- or 10-years’ time.

There is a general consensus that we want a Scotland where everyone is supported to stay mentally well. There is less clarity about what needs to change and how. At Scottish Recovery Network we believe now is the time to be aspirational and to work together to create a mental health system that provides support when and where people need it. A system that is with them on their journey to a good life of their choosing.

Through our work we reach out to people with lived experience of mental health problems and those with a passion for recovery to explore what is needed to create this mental health system. We facilitated a national discussion on the subject. This highlighted examples of good practice and innovative approaches in parts of our mental health system. It also emphasised that there is still much to be done to create a system that supports recovery. People told us that for our mental health system to be fit for purpose it needs to:

  • Take a whole person approach
  • Genuinely value lived experience by integrating it into all parts of the system
  • Embed peer support approaches and peer working roles in all mental health supports
  • Offer more community-based support and approaches
  • Work with others to create a more equal society where mental health and wellbeing can flourish

This ambitious but realistic vision is shaped by experiences and learning, including the challenges associated with the pandemic when we all had to adapt and change at pace.

How can this vision help us as we refresh the Scottish Government Mental Health Strategy? The first step is to truly involve people with lived experience in the development of the refreshed strategy. Too often our mental health strategy and services are designed by people who don’t actually have any direct experience of what it’s like to need or use them. People working in services and support can bring much needed knowledge and skill but without meaningfully engaging with lived experience – those accessing or seeking support – a piece of the puzzle is missing. 

The refresh of the Mental Health Strategy is an opportunity to reach out and use all of the expertise we have available to transform Scotland’s mental health system into one that supports recovery. Bringing new perspectives and ideas into our planning and decision-making can be what helps us break out of current ways of thinking. It can open up solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

Working with communities, organisations and services we will be feeding into this refresh in a variety of ways. Always with a focus on making sure people with lived experience of mental health challenges are heard. 

One approach we are using is to host a series of online conversation cafés where people with lived experience can share their thoughts and ideas at an early stage in the refresh. These conversation cafés will provide an informal but structured and purposeful space for people to share their experiences. A space to explore what they want from a Mental Health Strategy and the actions required to create the mental health services and supports our communities need. 

This is an exciting time. Although we face great challenges as people and as a society it is also an opportunity to embrace change and to listen to, act and utilise the wisdom of lived experience. Together we can create a mental health system fit for the 21st century that will support good mental health, wellbeing and recovery for all. 

This article is sponsored by the Scottish Recovery Network.

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