On Wednesday the 9th of October United Nations House Scotland (UNHS) co-hosted a conference with Soroptimist International at the Albany Conference Centre in Glasgow. Ninety attendees gathered to listen to talks from a variety of mental health experts and to engage in expert-led discussions. The engagement with and sharing of diverse perspectives made for a fascinating day.
Teresa Midhurst, Deputy Director for Adult Mental Health in the mental health directorate began the day by providing an informative overview of the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy and its implementation to date. Attendees developed an understanding of the means and techniques employed to bring improvements to Scottish mental health services. She was followed by Lynn Pilkington and Emma Pettigrew, who explained their work in Social Movement Support for See Me, Scotland’s Scotland's Programme to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination. Particularly useful were their recommendations for opening conversations on mental health, aiming to create a society in which mental health can be discussed as openly and productively as physical health.
Following an engaging Q&A session, the attendees split into three groups to begin a rotation of expert-led discussion. Gari Donn, executive director of UNHS, chaired a discussion on mental health in young people, in which important issues such as social media, human interaction and awareness were explored. Emma Straughan, the Project Facilitator for SAMH ‘Let’s Talk’ Project brought the issue of sparking discussions on mental wellbeing, a key aim of the charity, which has been working in Scotland since 1923. Clare Thompson from Change Agents Scotland led a discussion group on maternal mental health, which provided an opportunity for mothers to share and discuss their experiences.
Finally, Wendy Sinclair Gieben, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons provided a fascinating insight into mental health within prisons. Her exploration of mental health care in prisons for young people in particular highlighted numerous issues from adjusting to prison life to reintegration into public life following a sentence. She echoed the value of open discussions on mental health presented by the earlier speakers, emphasising the effectiveness of advice provisions given by detainees to new peers in the prison system.
The event provided a wonderful space for intersectional engagement on mental health, particularly potent as the event took place a day prior to World Mental Health Day. UNHS and Soroptimist International are very grateful for the participation of all attendees and speakers.