Working Together for Rural Communities

A newly established National Rural Mental Health Forum will bring together rural interests that have expressed an interest in helping people in rural areas maintain good mental health and wellbeing.

The Forum emerged following a recent survey in rural areas and a workshop organised by Support in Mind Scotland (SiMS)and SRUC- Scotland’s Rural College -The work looked at how those living in a rural community experience mental health.

There were nearly 350 respondents to the survey which highlighted depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and feelings, social anxiety and self-harming. There were regional variations depending on the amount of people who responded. The Forum is in now in a position to look at those variations across rural Scotland and come up with positive actions.

The Forum is unique in bringing together multiple organisations from across rural Scotland to improve mental wellbeing, from Lerwick to Hawick and Stornoway to Galloway. Organisations that are expert in working with mental health, can find it difficult to access those in remoter rural Scotland and rural community organisations with that outreach and access don’t always have the mental health knowledge.

This Forum brings these organisations together and shall empower rural community organisations to help them to raise awareness and encourage people in rural Scotland to ask for help.

Speaking out in support of the initiative Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing said: “Helping rural communities and businesses thrive is a priority for this Government and by enabling good mental health, we can all reach our full potential wherever we live. I welcome the new National Rural Mental Health Forum, rural groups working together for a common cause is a strong move forward in the right direction. I’m pleased to be supporting this positive initiative with an initial £25,000 to help coordinate a national rural focus on mental wellbeing.”

The exciting thing is that “the rural community” in its widest sense are all keen to work together to try to make a difference. Such unity is rare but shows the strength of feeling on this issue and the wish to contribute to a change in attitude across Rural Scotland.

Frances Simpson, Chief Executive of Support in Mind Scotland welcomes the Government support “The National Rural Mental Health Forum shall enable Support in Mind Scotland, with its stakeholders, to develop connections between communities across rural Scotland, so that isolated individuals and their families can receive support when and where they need it. Government support for this project will enable us to develop the network further, importantly including people with lived experience as well as organisations with outreach in to the nooks and crannies of rural Scotland. The Forum shall help us to develop policy based on evidence and deliver step change in rural Scotland