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Scotland restarts Mental Health First Aid training, 20 months after England

October 2, 2021 10:00 AM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat mental health spokesperson and practitioner Jane Alliston has today criticised the Scottish Government after it was revealed that Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Programmes suspended when the pandemic hit, will finally restart in October, 20 months after similar programmes in England shifted to an online model.

The training of mental health first aiders is undertaken by Public Health Scotland but was suspended when the pandemic struck, despite concerns that demand for support would soar. This contrasts with England where training never stopped and was instead delivered as a virtual classroom course.

During the election, Scottish Liberal Democrats announced a manifesto commitment to support the provision and training of mental health first aiders for every workplace. Under the party's proposals, an independent specialist body like Mental Health First Aid England would take over the delivery of this scheme. It would ramp up training so that every workplace can benefit from a mental health first aider.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have led the Parliament in declaring a mental health crisis, against the wishes of the government, and secured £120 million more for mental health in the course of our budget negotiations with ministers.

Jane Alliston said:

"While England was training an army of mental health first aiders to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, Scotland sat on its hands.

"Early intervention can avoid a problem becoming a crisis. By embedding mental health support in work places through accessible trained staff, we can empower colleagues to support individuals in a time of need. Too often we hear, "I knew something was up but I didn't know what to do."

"It was wrong to suspend the training programme at the very moment it should have been ramped up. Civil servants should have been working to get this programme going online, rather than working on SNP pet projects like legislation for another independence referendum."

Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

"Businesses and public sector employers lose hundreds of thousands of working days to mental ill health each year.

"Adults regularly wait up to two years for mental health treatment. That comes at a huge personal cost to their health but employers also miss out on their talents.

"Scottish Liberal Democrats want to give every workplace the protection of a trained mental health first aider."