Dedicated minister for mental health appointed

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Maureen Watt named minister for mental health 

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19th May 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

Strong campaigning by third sector organisations has led to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appointing a minister dedicated to tackling mental health issues in Scotland.

Maureen Watt, the MSP for Aberdeen South and North Kincardine, takes on the role of minister for mental health, which falls under the portfolio of Shona Robison MSP, the cabinet secretary for health and sport.

As the minister, she will assume responsibility for driving forward improvements in what is regarded a crucial area with recent research showing one in 10 children aged between five and 16 have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem.

It also found that half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14, yet charities say services are chronically underfunded.

Addressing the needs of an increasing number of those with mental health issues represents one of the greatest challenges of our time

Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading independent and third sector service providers, called for the appointment warning of a ticking timebomb of mental health issues in Scotland.

Children in Scotland, which represents voluntary, statutory and professional organisations and individuals working with children and their families, also campaigned for the post, saying it believes the impact of mental health difficulties on children and young people has reached critical point.

Speaking after Watt’s appointment, a spokesperson for SCSC said: “We are delighted that a dedicated minister for mental health has been appointed.

“Addressing the needs of an increasing number of those with mental health issues represents one of the greatest challenges of our time and we look forward to working with the new minister to deliver the best possible care and support for our vulnerable children and young people.”

Children in Scotland’s head of policy, Amy Woodhouse, said: “In our manifesto we said that investment in mental health prevention and early intervention for children and young people must be a priority if we are to stop problems deteriorating to the extent they require specialist support from The Child and Adult Mental Health Service.

“We also said that to take forward this commitment a dedicated ministerial-level post with a mental health remit should be created – and we made this a central part of our influencing efforts during the election campaign.

“We are therefore delighted that the Scottish Government has acted on our call.”

Watt was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in April 2006 as regional MSP for North East Scotland and has served as minister for schools and skills and minister for public health.

Announcing the appointment, Sturgeon said: “The ministerial line-up I have appointed today brings a number of new faces and a huge amount of energy to taking forward the Scottish Government’s programme.

“I am pleased to confirm the creation of a new minister for mental Health role, to be taken forward by Maureen Watt.

“We have made some positive advances in recent years on support for people with mental health issues, and this new role demonstrates how seriously I take this.

“Aileen Campbell will complete the strong health portfolio team as minister for public health and sport.”