My Column

Good work on mental health.

  • Date: Monday 15th October 2018
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I’ve not typically been one to get behind national days – half the time, they seem a bit contrived and ridiculous.

They’re also too often hijacked by companies hoping to shout about their great range of smoothies on national fruit day, or new pillow technology for national long lie-in day.

However, there are some causes that capture the imagination or make you think that little bit differently - and last Wednesday certainly did just that.

Businesses and the public across Scotland spoke out for World Mental Health Day, with individuals bravely sharing personal stories across social media and many public health bodies releasing startling research on this serious problem blighting Scottish society.

Figures from Mental Health Foundation Scotland, certainly caught my attention, revealing that over half of Scottish youngsters said a fear of making mistakes had led them to feel overwhelmed.

Being young is all about making mistakes and learning from them. However, age and hindsight is a wonderful thing and I can recall my younger self facing those exact same feelings.

With the research also showing that a quarter of young people felt stressed due to academic pressure and 53 per cent believing their body image had led them to feel unable to cope, the charity has warned that Scotland could face a child mental health crisis unless emotional wellbeing is taken as seriously as reading and writing in the curriculum.

Our schools need to be better equipped to deal with mental health. Whether that is training for teachers so they are informed enough to discuss issues surrounding mental health with children or counsellors based full time in schools.

Changing perceptions of mental health can be difficult, but by having honest conversations with our young people, we can both tackle the stereotypes and stigma that can come with low mental health, whilst providing preventative measures and helping them deal with stressful situations.

It’s not just for Scotland’s young people that we need to change perceptions of mental health. Stigma within the workplace is common.

I did a little digging and research released last year on World Mental Health Day showed that 42 per cent of Scotland’s workforce would be more likely to make up an excuse such as stomach ache or back problems for an absence, if they needed to take time off work for mental health reasons.

That’s unacceptable. Just because you can’t see the problem, does not mean it is any less valid or debilitating.

Some Scottish employers though are making great strides in trying to highlight and take action in tackling mental health stigma.

Scotrail, Apex Hotels, engineering company Babcock and commercial law firm Burness Paull have joined together with the See Me programme, to highlight the potential impact of mental health stigma and discrimination in work and ensure staff feel supported when they are struggling.

See Me, Scotland’s National programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, has recruited the organisations, which employ more than 8000 people between them, to work on a range of areas, including reducing absenteeism and presenteeism relating to mental health and promoting their role as a responsible, inclusive and caring employer.

All four have signed up to a six month process with See Me, to analyse their policies and practices in relation to mental health, to challenge discrimination and improve the working lives of employees with mental health problems.

It’s certainly a step in the right direction. Anything that makes Scotland’s workforce healthier and more productive is surely a good thing.

I hope that further businesses sign up to the programme or implement a similar policy to tackle this horrible problem that not only affects Scotland, but people the world over.



There are so many charities and good causes out there, and they need to be increasingly inventive when fundraising to hit high figures.

Bake sales, raffles and sponsored walks can all be successful, but it can pay off to think outside of the box - or should I say kennel.

That’s certainly what Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home did recently which I volunteered to take part in. I’m quite often in the doghouse with my family, but I was literally locked in a kennel with just a mobile phone and laptop for company in a bid to raise cash for charity.

My goal was to raise £1,000 before I was released and thankfully my friends, family and business network came through, allowing me to hit that target.

Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home haven’t been the only ones coming up with creative fundraising ideas.

I was very impressed by the latest scheme from National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to increase donations.

People rarely carry cash around with them now but are often never without their credit or debit cards. NTS tapped into this, quite literally, by installing contactless chip and pin machines to replica artworks across the country.

At the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, a late 19th century bust of Robert Burns has a card reader in its left hand and in Aberdeenshire a painting of Colonel William Gordon at Fyvie Castle is also fitted with a chip.

The initiative, called ‘Tap the Past to Preserve the Future’, was created with Bank of Scotland and Visa and takes an automatic £2 donation from every tap.

Earlier this year, we saw performers at the Edinburgh Fringe with contactless readers instead of bowler hats for donations and now the technology is in paintings so this certainly won’t be the last we hear of such innovations helping us to support the things we love. 



I was surprised to read that Glasgow is apparently the vegan capital of the UK with Edinburgh not too far behind – who wouldn’t be?

Scotland has built quite the reputation as the home of greasy, unhealthy food, but with more studies unveiling the worrying risks of obesity, I shouldn’t be so surprised that habits appear to be changing. 

The so-called ‘flexitarian’ diet is also on the rise where people can live on a plant-based diet most of the week but still indulge in the occasional meat and fish dish.

So I reckon chefs – and takeaways – across Scotland will need to revamp their menus to include more exciting veggie options for the 22 million Brits that currently identify as flexitarian.

Salt ‘n’ vinegar on your flexitarian supper mate?



In recent years, I’ve been only too happy to lend my support to Social Bite with its hugely laudable mission of ending homelessness in Scotland.

I’ve taken part in a few of their very humbling events – the CEO Sleepout and last year’s Sleep in the Park – that have really brought home the realities of sleeping rough on the streets while raising much-needed funds and awareness.

I’m delighted to now have the chance of getting involved again this week by co-hosting an Edinburgh launch alongside founder Josh Littlejohn, marking the return of Sleep in the Park.


It’s set to be bigger and better than last year, so now’s the perfect chance to get involved and make a difference before another bitterly cold Scottish winter hits. 

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