We need to be as comfortable talking about mental ill-health as we are about physical ill-health, new Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt has urged. Ms Watt – the first dedicated mental health minister in the UK – was speaking at the Scottish Association of Social Work’s (SASW) Annual Study Conference for mental health officers in Perth.
Stressing the Scottish Government’s commitment to improving mental health, she said: “Its visibility and awareness has substantially risen over the last decade. There is better public awareness of mental illness and the sources of help available.
“We are clear this agenda matters. We know mental illness is one of the top public health challenges and not just here in Scotland. In the world, one in four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.”
The Scottish Government wanted people with mental health problems to know their rights and to be at the centre of decisions about their own care.“In Scotland, we are proud that our mental health legislation promotes rights and is based on principles,” she said.“The new Mental Health Act builds on these principles and the measures around named persons, advance statements and advocacy will encourage service user involvement in decisions about their care and treatment and strengthen support for decision making.”
SASW’s Annual Study Conference for mental health officers (MHOs) provides a unique opportunity for these specialist mental health social workers to come together to exchange ideas and best practice.
This year it is organised in collaboration with partners including Glasgow Caledonian University, Learning Network West, The Mental Welfare Commission, The Scottish Social Services Council, Strathclyde University and Social Work Scotland.
Presenters include Alan Baird, Chief Social Work Adviser to the Scottish Government and Professor Jill Stavert, Director of the Centre for Mental Health and Incapacity Law, Rights and Policy at Edinburgh Napier University.
Trisha Hall, Manager of the Scottish Association of Social Work, said: “It is incredibly important that social work specialist professionals doing this vital work are able to have this unique opportunity to take stock, listen and learn from professionals, users of services and each other.
“Our profession is based on ethics and human rights, and the rights of workers can be overlooked. We have to be proud of MHOs, who work tirelessly with dedication and passion in the best interest of people who may struggle to do so themselves and their families.”