Support in Mind Scotland yesterday (9 November) participated in an important discussion between Scottish and Arctic experts on how we can work together to tackle visible and invisible barriers to accessing mental health support, allowing people of all ages to receive the right help at the right time, no matter where they live.

The 'Mental Wellbeing in Rural Communities' event included talks presented by Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey, National Rural Mental Health Forum convener Jim Hume and Ros Halley, Support in Mind Scotland's Community Development Manager.

Attendees also heard the Arctic perspective from Petter Stoor, a researcher from Umeå University, Sweden & Centre for Sámi Health Research, Arctic University of Norway; Ceporah Mearns, director of Nunavut Network Environment for Indigenous Health Research and Nancy Mike from Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre.

Moderator of the discussion was Sarah-Anne Munoz – Head of Rural Health and Wellbeing, University of the Highlands and Islands

Jim Hume said: “It should not matter where you live or who you are for your mental health and wellbeing to be supported.

"We were delighted to present and be part of the discussions between Scottish and Arctic countries, and their experts on access tackling mental health in remote and rural areas. 98% of Scotland’s land mass is classified as rural and we share many challenges with our Arctic neighbours of supporting people and intervening at the earliest opportunity to improve people’s outcomes. 

"Working together, building relationships and sharing best practice internationally is key to coming up with solutions and improving individuals’ life chances. Support in Mind Scotland and the National Rural Mental Health Forum are keen to work in co-operation with others to tackle mental health and wellbeing”

Scotland and the Arctic share similar challenges with ensuring that, no matter how rural or remote, communities receive high-quality support in relation to mental health and wellbeing. In rural areas, a combination of stigma, lack of anonymity and isolation can act as a barrier to accessing the right services, calling for urgent action and innovative solutions.

Tragically, suicide rates in the Arctic region are among the highest in the world and young people are particularly at risk. In Scotland, deaths by suicide have fallen over the past decade but much remains to be done.

Both in Scotland and in the Arctic, there is increasing recognition of the need for early prevention strategies that look at mental health challenges from a community perspective, offering local solutions and reflecting local circumstances. As well as improving access to clinical health services, encouraging local initiatives can have a critical role in improving mental wellbeing and developing “communities of care”.

This event was part of the Scottish Government’s Arctic Connections webinar series. Please find more information here.