Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today used a campaign stop in Edinburgh to announce a manifesto commitment to support the provision and training of mental health first aiders for every workplace, as he also revealed that training for both new mental health first aiders and instructors has been suspended for over a year.
The proposals are the first in a series of plans to boost mental health that the party will unveil over the coming week.
The training of mental health first aiders is undertaken by Public Health Scotland but was suspended when the pandemic struck, despite concerns that demand for support would soar. This contrasts with England where training never stopped and is instead being delivered as a virtual classroom course.
Under the party’s proposals, an independent specialist body like Mental Health First Aid England would take over the delivery of this scheme. It would ramp up training so that every workplace can benefit from a mental health first aider.
These proposals come weeks after Scottish Liberal Democrats led the Parliament in declaring a mental health crisis, against the wishes of the Scottish Government. Recent Scottish Liberal Democrat research has also uncovered 700,000 working days lost to mental health between schools, the police and ambulance service alone.
Willie Rennie MSP said:
"Businesses and public sector employers lose hundreds of thousands of working days to mental ill health each year. Our research indicates that this could have worsened during the pandemic.
"Adults regularly wait up to two years for mental health treatment. That comes at huge personal cost to their health but employers also miss out on their talents.
"Scottish Liberal Democrats want to give every workplace the protection of a trained mental health first aider.
"Early intervention can avoid a problem that starts small becoming a crisis. I want someone in every workplace to be able to recognise the signs of mental ill health among colleagues and know what to do.
"It was wrong to suspend the training programme at the very moment it should have been ramped up.
"For a decade I have been a passionate champion of Scotland’s mental health. In the past month Scottish Liberal Democrats have led the Parliament in declaring a mental health crisis, against the wishes of the government, and secured £120 million more for mental health in the course of our budget negotiations with ministers.
"This should be the platform for a new government that puts recovery first and transforms mental health services."