On Thursday, I was pleased to submit a motion to the Scottish Parliament to mark Time to Talk Day 2023. In Scotland, Time to Talk Day is run by See Me, the Mental Health Foundation, and the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), in partnership with the Co-op. I would like to thank everyone involved in these organisations for their relentless dedication to eradicating stigma around mental health.

The theme for Time to Talk Day 2023 focused on encouraging people to make space in their day to have a conversation with the friends and family about mental health. In the UK, it is estimated that around one in four people have experienced poor mental health in the last year.  In the context of the cost of living crisis, this years’ Time to Talk Day is more prescient than ever. New research from the Mental Health Foundation studying the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on people’s mental health has revealed that one-in-three adults in the UK are experiencing a poorer quality of sleep due to financial worries, whilst one-in-four people admitted to meeting friends less often in an effort to reduce their spending. The report argues that the rising level of poor mental health is the next pandemic and has called on Governments across the UK to address the nation’s deteriorating mental health with the same urgency shown in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the Scottish context, figures from Public Health Scotland have revealed that the number of children who have been referred for mental health treatment increased by 22% between 2021 and 2022. In my role as Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for Public Health and Social Care, I have consistently called on the Scottish Government to provide more support and resources to address the rising levels of poor mental health in Scotland. However, as an opposition politician it can be quite frustrating as there is only so much you can do without having able to access the levers of government. The responsibility to address the issue lies with those in power and therefore it is incumbent upon the Scottish Government to treat Scotland’s growing mental health crisis with the seriousness and urgency that it requires. They must step up and meet the moment.

I understand that the first, most vital, steps in addressing mental health involve taking the time to talk to a family member or a friend about their mental health. We will only end mental health stigma through having open conversations which, one-by-one, will shift the culture.  We must eradicate the stigma around mental health to empower more people to feel confident and comfortable to speak with their family and friends when they are experiencing poor mental health and are in need of help.

This year, I urge you to use Time to Talk Day to make space in your day to start a conversation with your family, your friends, and your colleagues about mental health.