Skip to main content


EACEA National Policies Platform


7. Health and Well-Being

7.5 Mental health

Last update: 25 January 2021
On this page
  1. National strategy(ies)
  2. Improving the mental health of young people


National strategy(ies)

A ten-year, all-age Mental Health Strategy was published in 2017.

Planned actions regarding children and young people include:

  • improving support for preventative and less intensive services to tackle issues earlier
  • reviewing personal and social education (PSE), the role of pastoral guidance in local authority schools, and services for counselling for children and young people
  • rolling out improved mental health training for those who support young people in educational settings
  • supporting the further development of ‘Think Positive’ (see ‘Improving the mental health of young people’ below) to ensure consistent support for students across Scotland
  • commissioning the development of a matrix of evidence-based interventions to improve the mental health and well-being of children and young people
  • improving quality on anticipatory care planning approaches for children and young people leaving the mental health system entirely, and for children and young people transitioning from child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) (see ‘Improving the mental health of young people’ below) to adult mental health services.

Local authorities, NHS Boards, the third (voluntary) sector and other community planning partners are mainly responsible for implementing the strategy.

The Programme for Government 2020 outlined plans to put into place a new community wellbeing service to support the mental health needs of children and young people, using an open access model that also allows self-referral. As well as this, they commit to have all 350 additional school counsellors in place by the end of 2020. 

The Scottish Government is also working to develop a new ten-year Child and Adolescent Health and Well-being strategy, addressing both physical and mental health. An Evidence Review was published by The Scottish Government in September 2018, outlining the available evidence on child and adolescent health and wellbeing in Scotland. A subsequent Task Force Delivery Plan was then published in December 2018, and the Task Force recommendations were published in July 2019. These  include a commitment to a formal, long term partnership between the Scottish government and COSLA as well as a range of other partners, and a greater recognition of third sector partners in service delivery of mental health services. 

The last national strategy to focus exclusively on the provision and development of mental health services for children and young people was The Mental Health of Children and Young People: a Framework for Promotion, Prevention and Care.

Prevention of suicide and self-harm is the focus of separate work. A new suicide prevention action plan was published by The Scottish Government in August 2018, designed to continue the work from the previous 2013-2016 suicide prevention strategy and the strong downward trend in suicide rates in Scotland.

The previous strategy was all-age and had five themes:

  • responding to people in distress
  • talking about suicide
  • improving the NHS response to suicide
  • developing the evidence base
  • supporting change and improvement.

Improving the mental health of young people

The Scottish Government announced funding of more than £8 million to community projects working to deliver mental health support as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This funding is not specifically targeted at organisations working with young people, however includes organisations such as Space & Broomhousein Edinburgh who work with young carers and in the area of youth befriending. 


Health Scotland published public advice for supporting children and young people’s mental health during the pandemic in 2020. You can read more about this here


CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) are the NHSScotland services that work with children and young people experiencing difficulties in their emotional or behavioural well-being. They are multidisciplinary teams, involving a range of different services and professionals who come into contact with young people. See the section 'Health care' in 'Access to quality services' for further information on CAMHS.

Think Positive is a Scottish Government-funded student mental health project at NUS (National Unions of Students) Scotland. The project works to improve student mental well-being and tackle the stigma attached to mental ill health.

The programme’s key objectives include:

  • creating structural and long-lasting changes – for example through supporting institutions and students’ associations to work together on Student Mental Health Agreements, which cover both strategic and practical plans to make improvements in how the institution and students’ association work together to tackle the stigma attached to mental ill health and work towards improving the mental wellbeing of their student body
  • building capacity within the student body, colleges and universities – this includes delivering Scottish Mental Health First Aid training to students and staff in colleges and universities free of charge, delivering mental health training to academic and teaching staff in universities and colleges, and specific areas of training to students and staff as required. As part of this objective, Think Positive Ambassadors help the project engage more regularly with students on the ground, enhancing the student voice of the project and increasing its visibility on local campuses
  • engaging hard to reach students – Think Positive and Scottish Student Sport joined together to run the Healthy Body Healthy Mind Awards. These awards highlight those colleges and universities who have worked towards making sport and exercise recognised at their institution as a way to maintain good mental well-being.

‘See Me' is Scotland’s all-age programme to end mental health discrimination and stigma, managed by a partnership of the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH) and the Mental Health Foundation. The programme is funded by the Scottish Government and Comic Relief.

There is a young people-specific section on the See Me website where a campaign is running to eliminate the taboo associated with mental ill-health, ‘It’s okay..’.

SAMH also runs a ‘Going to Be’ campaign for young people to draw attention to the thousands of young people who are being turned away from getting help for their mental health.

SAMH is mainly funded by local authorities and government grants.