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Mental Health Archives - Inspiring Scotland


Putting Families at the Centre

On Friday 4th November, the Inspiring Scotland Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (PIMH) team, supported the Scottish Government Perinatal and Early Years Mental Health Policy team with hosting the online event: Families at the Centre.

With over 250 attendees, from across the perinatal and infant mental health sector, the event offered a chance to bring everyone together and highlight just some of the work that has been achieved throughout the lifespan of the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme Board and wider remit. It is a passionate and committed sector, and it was a privilege to bring people together to share the inspiring work that has been carried out.

Couldn’t make the event? Here’s what you missed:

  • Dr Roch Cantwell from the Perinatal Mental Health Network launched the new Scottish Perinatal Mental Health Care Pathways videos. These videos aim to help women, their infants and families to access the most appropriate specialist perinatal and infant mental health care, should they require it.
  • Dr Hannah Guzinska (Home -Start Scotland), Leanne Jack and Natalie Shinwari (Home-Start East Highland) shared the important and far-reaching work of Home-Start Scotland. You can contact Hannah by email: There is also lots of information on the Home-Start Scotland website.
  • Christina Smiley shared the incredible work of CrossReach Counselling Scotland. CrossReach currently delivers perinatal counselling services across three locations: Bluebell Perinatal Service based in central Glasgow, Perinatal East based in central Edinburgh and Moray Perinatal based in Buckie. Clients are parents expecting a baby or with a child under three, facing perinatal mental health challenges.

To find out more about the Glasgow service email:; to contact the Moray service email:; and to contact the Edinburgh based service email:

If you are interested in partnering with CrossReach to develop a perinatal hub in your area, please get in touch with Christina Smiley, on  or on mob: 07388990187

A huge thank you to all the speakers that gave up their time to share their work and thank you to everyone who attended the Families at the Centre Event.

If you would like to share how you keep families at the centre of your work, we would love to hear from you.  Please tag us on twitter @PIMHFund and use the hashtag #FamiliesAtTheCentre


Key Themes from Peer Support for Dads

Monday 20th June marks International Father’s Mental Health Awareness Day.  Earlier this year, the Inspiring Scotland PIMH team alongside Scottish Government hosted an online event: Perinatal Peer Support Scotland. The aim of the session was to recognise the contribution of peer support workers; showcase good practice and highlight the role of peer support and how it can complement clinical services.

One of three sessions focused on Peer Support for Dads.  This session was chaired by Douglas Guest from Home-Start and the panelists included: Chris Miezitis from Fathers Network Scotland; Greg Borthwick from Dads Rock; and Doug Marshall from Home-Start Glasgow South.

Three key themes that emerged from the peer support for Dads discussion:

  1. It is a myth that dads don’t want to talk and share their feelings

Participants reflected there is a stereotype that dads and men don’t want to talk. Chris from Fathers Network Scotland stated that this is a myth, and that dads do want to share their feelings and be included.  It was suggested that when trying to get dads to engage, it is important to provide dads with the appropriate space to allow them to talk freely.  It is also important to take into account potential barriers that are preventing dads from engaging with services such as cultural stereotypes and systematic barriers.

  1. The importance of recognising dad as a parent

It was pointed out that throughout the peer support event, the word dad or father was rarely referenced, and that nearly all images used in perinatal services only feature women. This can further isolate dads.  Participants raised thatdads want to be an asset to the development of their child, and are therefore keen to be heard and supported.  It is important to break down damaging stigmas and realise that men want to be involved in their children’s lives; having a well-supported dad results in a better supported family.

  1. It is important that services are tailored towards dads

Frequently, dads feel excluded from perinatal services and may feel intimidated by the current services that are on offer.  It was suggested that having peer support workers who have lived experience is a powerful and effective means of encouraging dads to engage with services.  It was stated that lived experience should be front and centre of any peer support work.  Greg from Dads Rock said that it can be tempting to replicate services that are tailored for mums, however he argued that this is ineffective as men face different issues and challenges in the perinatal period.  This confirms the importance of including lived experience as it allows the services to be designed with dads needs in mind.

It was clear from the group discussion that dads can face a great deal of stigma and may be reluctant to utilise available services offering support.  This highlights how powerful it is to have lived experience involvement in the design and delivery of services to make support as accessible and relevant as possible.

Monday 20th June marks International Father’s Mental Health Awareness Day, where we will be talking about how up to 10% of dads experience mental health challenges in the perinatal period.

For more information and how you can access support, please visit Father’s Network Scotland’s website:




Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Third Sector Funding Announced

18 third sector organisations from across Scotland have been awarded funding from the Scottish Government’s Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Small Grants Fund. These organisations provide vital support for new and expectant parents, carers and families at a crucial stage of life.

Building on a recent consultation, the fund supports small to medium sized organisations that provide community-based peer, parenting and counselling support to parents and carers. Organisations also support the mental health of infants by helping parents and carers to establish and maintain warm and attuned relationships with their babies, including families that face a range of challenges and barriers. A full list of funded organisations is included below.

To support the announcement of successful applicants to the fund, Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, is meeting one of the funded organisations, LATNEM (Let’s All Talk North East Mums) to discuss the importance of their work and the strengths and challenges of delivering community-based perinatal support.

LATNEM aims to promote and protect the mental health of women, birthing people and their families by providing a free, comprehensive peer support service in a safe, judgement-free space that supports their mental health when they need it. The organisation offers Scotland-wide online peer support groups, face-to-face peer support groups in Aberdeenshire and in Moray, resources, signposting and a private online group for LATNEM Members.

Today’s announcement is in conjunction with the publication of the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme Delivery Plan for 2021-2022. The Delivery Plan sets out the areas of focus under this year’s theme ‘Delivering In Partnership’ as part of Scottish Government and the PIMH Programme Board’s commitment to Perinatal and Infant Mental Health services in Scotland.

Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, Kevin Stewart MSP, said:

“My heartfelt congratulations go to the key grass-roots groups who were successful in receiving the funding for what they do every single day to care for and offer the right kind of support to those who need it, at the right time.

I am pleased to launch this year’s delivery plan that is another step forward to achieving our goal of developing and sustaining perinatal and infant mental health services in the most challenging times.

With continued collaborative working, we can offer invaluable support for perinatal and infant mental health services across Scotland, to provide not only the best start in life for infants, but also to provide a lifeline to parents, carers and families when they may need it most.”

Inspiring Scotland is managing the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health fund on behalf of Scottish Government. The Small Grants Fund is offered in addition to a Main Grants Fund that currently supports 16 third sector organisations across Scotland from October 2020 to April 2023.”

Celia Tennant, CEO, Inspiring Scotland said:

“We know that the most important developments – physical, cognitive and emotional – have their foundations set very early in life, specifically in pregnancy and the first few years. We also know that for new parents, while the first few years can be the most joyous, they can also be the most challenging, with perinatal mental ill health affecting up to 20% of new mums and 10% of new dads.

We are delighted to be working with Scottish Government and the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme Board to deliver this fund. These community-based organisations have been a lifeline to families throughout lockdown, providing critical support to families at this crucial stage of life. We look forward to working with them all over the next 18 months.”

For more information on the fund or any of the funded organisations, please contact Inspiring Scotland at

View the 2021 – 2022 Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme Delivery Plan.


Successful Organisations – Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Small Grants Funding:

3D Drumchapel
Dads Rock
Fathers Network Scotland
Held In Our Hearts
Home-Start Aberdeen
Home-Start Dundee
Home-Start East Lothian
Home-Start Glasgow South
Home-Start Levenmouth
Home-Start Renfrewshire and Inverclyde
Let’s All Talk North East Mums (LATNEM)
Mellow Parenting
MindMosaic Counselling and Therapy
Multi-Cultural Family Base
Nurture the Borders
Pregnancy Counselling and Care (Scotland)
Starcatchers Productions Ltd
With Kids


Accessing the right kind of help can transform the lives of new parents

Pregnancy, birth and caring for a new baby can involve some of the most rewarding experiences in life. Yet being a new parent can also be full of difficult and isolating moments for mothers and families writes Julia Abel.

Mental ill health at this time is common, affecting 1 in 5 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers; parents facing greater barriers in their lives and those lacking support structures are particularly affected.

As we struggle to maintain social connections and combat loneliness and anxiety during the pandemic, new and expectant mothers, their partners, and infants face further challenges.

The Scottish Government has committed £50 million over four years to improving support for mothers and families struggling with poor mental health during and after pregnancy.

As well as improving statutory mental health services, Inspiring Scotland is managing a Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Fund providing annual funding of up to £1 million to 15 charities across the country to provide vital community-based support for parents and families.

For those who don’t meet the threshold for acute mental health services, this kind of assistance can be a lifeline, helping parents feel less isolated, more confident, and able to reach out to others.

Many parents benefit from specialist counselling support and therapy. Others are matched with volunteer peer supporters who provide non-judgemental practical and emotional support.

Amy was an isolated young parent who felt unable to cope when she was referred to Home-Start North Glasgow, a charity that matches volunteers with families in need of support. By building a trusting relationship with Debbie, a mum with teenage children of her own, Amy developed the skills, confidence, and strength to bond with her baby and make positive changes in her life.

For expectant mums who lack support structures, accessing the right kind of help before and during birth can be transformative.

When she arrived in Scotland seeking asylum in February, Dawn was pregnant and facing a difficult and unpredictable future. She was referred to Amma Birth Companions, another Glasgow-based charity working with women who would otherwise experience pregnancy and birth alone.

Dawn was introduced to a volunteer companion who supported her through her antenatal appointments and was there when she gave birth to a healthy boy. According to Dawn, the practical and emotional support she received made her feel like part of a family.

We know that parents who feel well and supported are better able to maintain bonds with their infants. The foundations of physical, cognitive, and emotional development are set early in life, from the beginning of pregnancy through to a child’s second birthday.

Protecting the health of parents and carers and supporting them to develop warm and secure relationships with their babies is vitally important, not only for them, but for the wellbeing of society.

From the Borders to Caithness, Glasgow to the Western Isles, there are many more organisations working across Scotland to support parents, carers and families coping in difficult circumstances.

A directory of organisations and further information about the charities supported by the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Fund can be found here.

Julia Abel is Head of Development & Partnership at Inspiring Scotland.

Nurturing the ‘new normal’ through outdoor learning and play

As we move out of lockdown, embracing our outside spaces can help society recover and build resilience for the future, writes Thrive Outdoors Programme Manager Rachel Cowper.

The online algorithms must be getting to know my reading habits of late, because I have come across many articles over the last few days discussing what the ‘new normal’ will be.

These include pieces and papers from Public Health Scotland to The Guardian, from George Monbiot to Scottish Government – even from external Infrastructure Property Agencies – many of which I have also had the privilege of being involved with or have contributed to.

The common thread running through them all is the notion that what has worked before will not work the same way in the future. One notable example is the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Framework for Decision Making document, which sets out the challenges we face transitioning out of lockdown. As one passage on adjusting to the ‘new normal’ notes:

Before this crisis we were focussed on our mission of making Scotland a greener, fairer, and more prosperous country and this has not changed. But the place from where we are starting has.

In other words, despite the last few extraordinary months, our needs as humans remain the same. So, consider this: what do we really need to do to feed, educate and employ people in our society? And is there the opportunity to support the ‘new normal’ through innovative decision-making and building on the sense of collaboration and community that has developed?

Building on unintended consequences

At a time when much media is focussed on children, particularly when they go back to school and what this might look like, could it be time to think instead about the unintended consequences of lockdown, and build on the positive potential?

A prime case in point from a health perspective is obesity – an issue often exacerbated by sedentary behaviours and poor diet. Yet during lockdown, we have become used to seeing people out walking and engaging in their local communities. Could it be that when people are denied access to something that is ‘taken for granted’, its true value becomes clear?

If this collective desire to get outside means that increased value is being placed on outdoor time, could this be embraced to enhance learning and play opportunities for our children? Might it be used to aid health and wellbeing, and provide the space to help with recovery and resilience?

Coming out of lockdown and embracing the outdoors

Outdoor educators know that you do not need four walls to teach children. Rather, you need passionate, knowledgeable, enthusiastic teachers and leaders. You only need look at the volumes of research available, much of which is summarised in Scotland’s national position statement on outdoor play and learning.

As we move out of lockdown, the use of the outdoors at schools can provide space for social distancing and opportunities for learning. Moving more can address sedentary behaviours and improve physical health. Outdoor and natural spaces benefit our mental health, particularly salient as we mark Mental Health Awareness Week. These are surely things we all want while we look to recover as a society and build resilience for the future.

If there is an emerging acceptance that what has worked in the past will not necessarily be good for the future, then now is the time to decide whether we need to return to the ‘old normal’. Clearly, where outdoor spaces are concerned, the ‘new normal’ has the potential to be so much better.

The importance of social connectedness for mental health and wellbeing

Mental Health has been a taboo for a long time. It is encouraging to see the topic going up the agenda and becoming a subject of lively conversation, not just amongst professionals but with family and friends too. It is slowly but surely becoming looked at for its universal relevance and central importance to our lives.

Ahead of the ‘Tomorrow’s World Today: new frontiers in mental health’ conference, which takes place this week, Marie-Amélie, Link Up Performance Advisor shares her perspective, mainly drawn from Inspiring Scotland’s Link Up programme. Perhaps the impetus to explore new frontiers can be the opportunity to remind ourselves about what lies at the heart of being human.

Rather than purely focusing on fixing what seems like a rising tide of poor mental health, how about protecting and promoting those things that give us good mental health? The benefits of being in nature and getting some physical exercise are key and well evidenced. Possibly even more essential and yet often ignored (taken for granted?) is our need to connect with others, belong, and have purpose.

“Purpose is perhaps the leading indicator of your wellbeing. Pablo Picasso put it well when he said the meaning of life is to find your gift and the purpose of life is to give your gift away!”  Dr Mark Rowe.

Link Up- dogged determination to be mindful of pace and scale

Over the last five years, Link Up has worked in 12 of Scotland’s most socio-economically deprived neighbourhoods and enabled over 17,000 people to come together, connect, build relationships, feel they belong to their community, and develop a sense of purpose. We did not set out to improve mental health,but have witnessed first-hand how fundamental social connectedness is to everyone’s health – mental and physical – and the critical role of Link Up in facilitating that.

The success of Link Up has, for a large part, come from that dogged determination to be mindful of pace and scale. In a world where ‘time is money’ and speed is supposedly key to success and delivered to us through every bit of technology, it is all the more important to slow down.

In the neighbourhoods where we work, we are taking the time to get to know people, to nurture relationships, and to support the development of a wide range of activities – all at a scale and a pace that enable trust and reciprocity to grow. Our workers are genuinely interested in people’s stories and listen to them. They naturally adopt a highly authentic and human response. They empathise and bring practical and emotional support to deal with the hardship and toughest of challenges, and just as importantly, they share in the joys and celebrate the successes. They provide support directly to individuals, but also create positive ripples in the wider community, generating supportive networks that empower people to help themselves and to help one another.

Technology is often given as the solution, but is it friend or foe? The solution or the problem for our mental health? Maybe the more cutting edge technology becomes, the sharper and potentially dangerous its blade turns out to be? Social media is a case in point; we can use it to grow community but must be guarded not to fall into the pitfall of “the more we connect online, the more disconnected we become”.

A catalyst for greater health and wellbeing

What Link Up has shown is that carefully facilitating welcoming social spaces and places – indoor and outdoor – where people can meet, enjoy each other’s company, and be inspired to join in community-led action must be at the heart of our efforts to promoting health and wellbeing, and reduce inequalities. Harnessing people’s interests and skills, and encouraging those to be shared offers that opportunity to find your gift and give it away, thereby fostering that all-important sense of purpose. To give is to receive and can only happen when we’re connected to others.

Stimulating social participation increases community empowerment and resilience, strengthens social capital and local economies, which in turn allow people to deal with complex challenges, including around mental and physical health, and increase ‘copability’.

We’ve showed it with Link Up: participants get energised to effect change for themselves, their family and their community. They learn to trust; trust in themselves that they can make a change, trust the workers that they will be there to support them, trust in one another to form a whole that is stronger than the sum of the parts. This creates greater self-belief and higher aspirations.

By fostering greater community connectedness, Link Up is the catalyst for greater health and wellbeing. The good news is … it’s not rocket science and doesn’t cost the Earth; so what are we waiting for?

‘Our great task is to succeed in becoming more human.’    Jose Saramago. 1922-2010. Nobel laureate for literature 1998.

Young people are more than their mental health difficulties

Stacks _image _2Charis Robertson of Hot Chocolate Trust, an Inspiring Scotland 14:19 Fund portfolio charity is celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week by asking the Hot Chocolate Trust young people what their hopes for the future of mental health support across Scotland.

I am no expert on how mental health issues affect young people.
However, having worked with hundreds of young people over the years who struggle with their mental health, I have certainly learnt a lot from them about their experiences and recovery and I know mental health affects every young person differently.

That’s why I have co-written this article with them.

My co-authors are some of the young people I work with at Hot Chocolate Trust, a grassroots youth work organisation in Dundee, and they are the experts of their own experiences. If we are serious about creating a society which supports young people to flourish and thrive – physically, socially, emotionally, mentally – we’d be wise to listen to what they say.

Over 60% of the young people involved with Hot Chocolate experience mental health difficulties, so I invited them to share something around how mental health has affected them and our community.

“Mental health affects my life almost 24/7, everywhere I go. School and home are the big ones for me where I trigger every day. I can range from anger to emotional breakdowns to the fight/flight/freeze response. It’s extremely hard to live with, and it’s very hard for me to find people who understand.”

– Annie, 16

“I suffer with depression, ADHD, anxiety and paranoia. I struggle day-to-day with these disorders – it’s sometimes like I’m at war with myself. It seems like the hardest thing in the world is to put on a smile when all I want to do is hide under my duvet and stay there for a week.”

– Carrie, 17

“I was homeless when I was 17 and I had to fend for myself for 2 years. It’s really hard to deal with that as a teenager – you don’t feel there’s a lot you can do about it. I had pretty bad depression and anxiety and I thought about suicide quite a lot of times. You really need someone to sit down and speak to, and thankfully I found that at Hot Chocolate.”

-Paul, 22

“The vibe at Hot Chocolate is informal and free. I never feel forced to open up, and that makes me want to open up. It really helps that I can talk about my problems.”

– Steve, 16

“I knew I needed someone to speak to, so I spoke to the team at Hot Chocolate. They encouraged me to speak to my doctor. They helped me express my feelings. They didn’t judge. They helped me make positive plans for my future. They gave me opportunities. They listened. They were there.”

– Dan, 18

The young people of Hot Chocolate (like everybody else) are on a journey with their mental health and wellbeing: understanding themselves better; learning more about their own needs; cultivating healthy and positive practices; finding ways to express their emotions; establishing trusting relationships; growing in confidence to reach out and ask for help when they need it; processing past experiences; and developing courage, resilience and strategies to tackle they challenges they face.

Without these steps in the journey, it is very difficult for young people to be able to embrace the opportunities that may lay ahead of them– including those of employment, education and training.

So, in light of their experiences, I also asked my co-authors what their hopes are for the future of mental health support for young people across Scotland:

  • That young people are seen as whole people. They are more than their mental health difficulties, and also come with hopes, ambitions, skills and talents.
  • That mental health professionals would take time to get to know them, build up trust with them, really listen to them, and learn what makes them tick.
  • That mental health professionals don’t try to control or dictate what should happen, but work in partnership with them.
  • That there would be more creative opportunities to help them express themselves, and to help themprocess their emotions and experiences.

These seem like wise and achievable hopes to me.

Charis Robertson (Assistant Director, Development) & young people of Hot Chocolate Trust.

Hot Chocolate Trust is a grassroots youth work organisation based in centre of Dundee. It is part of Inspiring Scotland’s 14:19 portfolio, supporting young people into employment, education and training.

Loneliness doesn’t have to be for life

Our Deputy Chief Executive, Helen Chambers, writes about how Inspiring Scotland’s Link Up fund is tackling loneliness through transforming communities from within.

At a time when the damaging effects of loneliness are being equated to the effects of smoking, the need to transform our communities is more critical than ever. Combatting community breakdown and isolation from within is key so that communities can begin to support each other. For the past four years we at Inspiring Scotland have been developing and measuring the impact of Link Up, a community asset initiative, which is beginning to have an effect in some of Scotland’s most vulnerable communities.

Meet Doug. He is in his late 70s, suffers from diabetes and needs to have regular insulin injections. He is also hard of hearing and needs a walking stick. A well-known character in his area of Dundee, he was very active in his community when he was younger and was a Boys Brigade Captain. His wife died nine years ago and he has lived on his own since.

One day he was contacted by his local Link Up worker. Her role is to use the seemingly simple steps of working with what’s good in a community and using social activities (eg gardening, cooking, arts, crafts, sport, music) to build relationships between local people. Following a conversation with Doug, she was able to introduce him to the local weekly Lunch Club, a cinema club every fortnight, and the new social and camera clubs.

Because of his numerous health issues, the volunteers at those clubs began to look out for him. When they saw that he was struggling with the soup bowls at Lunch Club, they bought him his own bowl with a handle on it, to make it easier for him to use. Other times volunteers would phone his house to check he was ok if he didn’t turn up for something – like when he forgot to put his clock forward. That initial conversation with the worker became a whole social and support network for Doug and his new friends.

Link Up works with nine of the most vulnerable communities in Scotland with local workers being hosted by charities operating in that area. Their work always starts by asking “what’s good in this community?” ie local people’s passions and talents.

Whereas in the past “interventions” in the community have seen people as problems that need to be solved or fixed, Link Up’s approach simply values people as they are, and helps them to see the huge potential of who they can be. The Link Up worker’s ability to nurture individuals, identify sometimes long-forgotten skills is key to helping people re-engage with their local community.

Link Up also helped Kenny, from the South Side of Glasgow, out of isolation. Kenny was chair of the local tenants’ association in the 90s, when it went into decline. As a result, he began to feel less and less a part of his community and when his partner left him, the feeling of isolation really set in. Someone suggested to the Link Up worker that they contact him and he was invited to attend a camera club and things began to turn around for Kenny.

“I’ve always taken photos my whole life but being part of the group has really sparked my enthusiasm for it again. It’s really good bouncing ideas off people. With the photography group we make decisions together and being that way with each other has helped us get closer. I’ve met new friends who have similar interests. The groups not closed like other groups can be. You always feel welcome. It’s company. “

Marco Biagi, the Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister earlier this month commented that there was a “strong moral case” for tackling the issue of loneliness but warned there could be “no quick fixes”. Now in its fourth year, Link Up is looking to expand throughout Scotland.

Driven by Inspiring Scotland and with the backing of the Scottish Government and private trusts, both the charities that host Link Up and their workers are offered specialist support to achieve their goal in genuine community development, And it’s working. By September 2015, over 12,000 individuals had participated in local activities with almost 800 of them volunteering in some capacity. In one area where Link Up operate, there was a 40 per cent reduction in recorded crime and 66 per cent reduction in anti-social behaviour calls over three years.